The Five Essentials (Ros' Blog)
When I was younger, sailing was my passion. My father and some of his friends used to charter a couple of yachts from Maldon in Essex for a fortnight every summer and run two one-week sailing holidays for young people. The first was for beginner sailors, with evangelistic Bible studies, and the second was for more advanced sailors, with discipleship Bible studies. I went on both weeks every summer except one from the age of thirteen until I was eighteen, and my school friends were bored of hearing me talk about it non-stop!
My children have decided that I should be reliving my youth. So for my birthday this year they enrolled me on a Royal Yachting Association level 2 dinghy sailing course. It’s not quite as exhilarating as yacht sailing on the North Sea, but it’s definitely the next best thing. And I’m pleased to say I passed, and have a certificate to prove it!
In sailing a dinghy, there are five essentials that have to be borne in mind, and it struck me that they make a good analogy for our Christian life, especially when we may find ourselves grappling with the storms of disability, financial worries or the general vicissitudes of life.
The first essential is sail trim. Sail too close to the wind with the sails too tight, and the power that buffets your sails could tip you right over. But let out too much sail or turn to the wrong angle into the wind, and the sails flap uselessly, with no forward motion. To make steady progress as fast as possible without capsizing, the person at the helm has to keep an eye on both the direction and the state of the sails.
As Christians, we have to keep a weather eye (so to speak) on the wind of the Holy Spirit. Events in our life may seem to rush us along at breakneck speed, or even threaten to overturn us. But as long as we keep in step with the Holy Spirit, sensitive to what He is doing in our lives, then whether we find ourselves sailing smoothly in a gentle breeze or tossed about in the storms of difficulty that disability can sometimes bring, we will be safe and, crucially, will end up where He wants to take us.
The second essential is balance. If you are not careful your own weight will tilt the boat in the same direction that the wind is causing it to list, and you may unwittingly capsize it yourself. The idea is to keep the boat as level as possible, even if this means leaning right out over the side to counterbalance the wind in the sails.
In being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, it’s important to be aware of where He wants us to be. As long as we remain in the place He has appointed for us for this season in our lives, we will come to no harm. It’s when we are heedless of what He is doing in our lives and we fail to respond to His movement in our lives that we risk finding ourselves out of balance and out of control. Do you seem to be being thrust into the limelight, with lots of opportunities to share your testimony? Go for it! Now is your moment to lean out of the boat and be visible! Is a season of weakness or pain keeping you indoors at the moment? Take the opportunity to rest in Him, and don’t try to lean out into areas where He isn’t asking you to go.
The third essential is boat trim. It’s not only important to balance the boat so it doesn’t capsize, it’s also important to place your weight in the right place along the length of the hull. Getting this right can prevent the boat dragging in the water, and can enhance your speed and manoeuvrability. Where you sit will depend whether you are on a run before the wind or a reach alongside it.
Which direction is God taking your life in at the moment? Position yourself to co-operate with Him and you will not be hindered in following the course He has set for you.
The fourth essential is the centreboard. Unlike the yachts I used to sail which had fixed keels, a dinghy has a centreboard which can be raised or lowered. The purpose of the centreboard is to correct sideways drift, so when the wind is from behind and there is no sideways drift, it can be raised. Depending on where the wind is coming from, the centreboard should be lowered in stages, all the way to fully down when the wind is from the side, although this can also cause some drag through the water. It’s a question of maximising both speed and stability.
There may be times when life is plain sailing, and we hardly even feel as if we need to hold onto God, because we are so conscious of His hold on us. There are other times when we feel so buffeted by our situation that we need to reach down deep into Him and hold on. We should keep our eyes fixed on Him and on where our circumstances are taking us, and be ready at any moment to reach down deep into Him so that we don’t get blown off course.
The fifth essential is known as “course made good”. This simply means that you look at where you are going, and take the most direct and efficient route to get there. You can’t sail into the wind and may need to tack across it (you may have seen this if you watched the TV coverage of the sailing at the Olympics) but you should make the fewest possible manoeuvres, and if you are running before the wind you can take a more direct route without deviation. At sea you may also need to take account of the direction of the tide so as to hold to the most direct course.
When God sets the course for our lives, we can meander around, veering away from His purposes even though vaguely heading in the right direction. Or we can do as Jesus did when He set His face like flint and determinedly headed into what God had planned for Him.
We didn’t all get it right all the time on the sailing course. Some took longer than others to get the hang of it. But everyone ended up safely moored where they were supposed to be at the end of the weekend. So don’t be harsh on yourself if you don’t always sail perfectly through your Christian life. God is gracious; co-operate with Him and He is committed to bringing you safely to the amazing destiny He has planned for you.