Smooth Sailing

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Most likely I am an anomaly. I’ve only been sailing once in my life, and I didn’t like it. I was a teenager at the time, visiting relatives in Canada. We set out on a large salt water lake, in my Uncle’s rather nice, well-kept sailboat. It wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t real large either – six to eight people could be on the boat for a quick sail. It didn’t seem to be too windy of a day and the water didn’t look to be too choppy. My Uncle and my cousin did the work, I was there for the ride. I watched them angle the boat, position the rigging, raise the sails, and guide the vessel through the water. They were constantly moving and there were many times that I had to make sure that I was out of the way. That water that hadn’t appeared to be too choppy from the shore, felt very much different once I was in the boat. The waves sure made me feel that the boat was struggling to make headway. At times, at least to me, I felt that we were losing ground as my Uncle and my cousin determinedly worked against the water conditions as they pushed us from side to side, or hit at an angle from the front. These two men were working hard to position the boat, and us into, the ideal conditions so that the sailboat that would allow for a smooth sail. It seemed to me like it was forever that they battled the waves and the wind. I was ill prepared for conditions on the water. It was a warm day, approximately around 72 degrees F, I was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, the sun was out, and beautiful fluffy cumulus clouds dotted the azure blue sky. Yet, the wind in my face mixed with the splash of the cold salt water chilled me substantially. It seems like it took them a long time to get the boat into the perfect position, and I was tired from watching them scurry about. But, finally, when they deemed it was the optimum time, they steered the rudder and the sailboat began to turn, still fighting the choppy water, and in a few minutes, the sails caught the wind, billowing in the ideal direction. In that moment, with the wind at our backs, the warmth of the sun hit my face and warmed my body. I felt the sailboat take off and it seemed to cut rather effortlessly through those very same waters that they had battled just minutes before. That, my Uncle explained, was what sailing was all about. He spoke about maneuvering the boat through the rough spots, cutting through the waves at the best possible angle, with determination and a keen eye to reach the goal of achieving the thrill of watching the sails fill with air, and gliding rather smoothly across the waters. He loved to sail, he loved the freedom that he felt when the sailboat did what it was designed to do – catch the wind. Perhaps if I had a better understanding of what one did when sailing before I set foot on his boat, I may have felt differently about my one and only trip on a sail boat.

As I think back over my experience, I am amazed about how God brings back certain memories to me – those experiences which seem rather lost in the past – and how something so benign as a sailboat ride on that one summer day, serves to resurface some 45 years later to teach me such truths about life.

As much as I would love everything in my life to be smooth sailing, gliding along with the wind at my back, I know that I can’t catch the wind, if I don’t navigate through the obstacles first. Some of the time, well maybe actually most of the time, if we don’t keep our eyes on the winds and waves of this life, if we don’t push forward, if we lose focus, if we wane in determination, if we become complacent, then we can be like that sailboat struggling to cut through the waves, or worse yet, being rocked forcefully side to side at the mercy of the waters. We may never get to the point when our sails catch the wind perfectly and we experience the freedom, the thrill, and warmth of God’s love for us. He alone is our one true anchor in the storm, and He is the wind behind my sails.

With a proper set of the sail and a skillful hand on the tiller, even the most adverse winds of life can be made to thrust us forward.” Corrie ten Boom

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“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19, NLT)

Set sail, catch the wind, dear ones.


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