Lots of time for wind-swept, driftwood filled meditations this week. We’ve been on a sailing trip, just Jim and I. I’ve been thinking how life is a lot like a sailing trip… We head out with dreamy-eyed visions of sunny skies, perfect breezes, scenic seascapes and blissful relaxation. That is after all why we take sailing trips isn’t it? Would we embark if we knew the skies would turn grey and begin to spit and the wide ocean be stirred up to pitch us about? Maybe. But why? What’s the draw?
Can’t the captain guarantee us such things? No. He only promises to stick with me come wind come weather, to pilot me safe to the destination he has in mind. He’s got the charts. He knows the perils. We’ll be in this thing together, for better or for worse. Whether it be grilled pork chops on deck in a calm harbor as the day settles around us or canned soup by dim cabin light long after night fall and a long day of navigating. We’re together.
Will it be scintillating sunshine and fresh steady breezes or stifling heat as we languish in the doldrums? Or maybe rainy squalls that drive me below deck to ride it out in closed-eye concentration of mind over matter. It’s ok; we’re in this thing together. It’s a bonding thing. I am my beloveds and he is mine. He takes me on adventures I could never know without him.
And somehow, in the enduring of the not-so-pleasant, and the mildly terrifying and the humdrum our capacity for the joy of the sunny moment, the blissful leisure and the breathtaking vistas is enhanced! Don’t you find it so?
It seems to me life is like that. On this side of the grave, given a sin-fractured world, an enemy scheming sabotage and even our own natures bent on betrayal of our best interests…what hope is there of endless bliss? And yet I find myself incorrigibly aiming for it. And then I’m shocked and affronted when trouble comes. Why? Does the captain owe me a fair-weather sail guarantee? Do voyages come with guarantees? Does life?
I always have to come back to my real hope, the one that won’t disappoint, that Good News that was the ticket for the journey in the first place. When I push back from circumstances and think objectively I see a disconcerting trend of thought that speaks of hope as a future thing, an inheritance that isn’t fully realized yet, but guarded in the here and now by faith in my Captain….
“…born again to a living hope…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (I Pet.1:3,4)
“Fix your hope completely on the grace yet to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet.1:13)
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Rom 8:24)
Is this really where my hopes are set so that in the meantime I can weather wind and seas and delight in tranquil respites but not cling to them, demand them, or live for them?
The real hope is yet ahead—the hope alone that guarantees complete satisfaction. In the meantime, some winds, maybe rain, some tough moments to endure. “With endurance a joy will develop that frees you to appreciate the pleasure of life’s blessings without requiring from them a satisfaction they cannot provide.” (Crabb,101)
But my captain is with me and in real life He has the power to guarantee me a safe haven at journey’s end. Isn’t this after all the heart of the Gospel, the good news that God is with us, forever! He’s made a way, forgiven our sins, brought us near. And now we’re in this thing called life on earth together.
I have a tendency to think of Him as a resource for my comfort here and now but this is missing the point. He’s with me, yes, but not so everything will be just perfect and I’ll sail sweetly home without a snag. There’s this matter of redemption that has nothing to do (yet) with my physical body and everything to do with my character—the soul of who I am and who I live for. God takes the everyday everythings of life ‘as is’ and redeems them for the purpose of reshaping me for His glory. It’s all there just beyond that comforting verse about all things working together for good… “to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom.8:28ff) If my purpose in life is about sunny skies, idyllic anchorages and ceaseless ease I’ve embarked on the wrong cruise! This one’s about becoming conformed to the image of God’s Son—whatever it takes!
So while I do know I’m in good hands I don’t know what all my days will hold of pain and pleasure. And they seldom come unmixed.
Take for example this trip. There I was smack dab in the middle of these musings and the dinghy motor wouldn’t start. Here we were anchored in a spacious bay on an idyllic summer’s morning, (now fast morphing into afternoon), fresh and free, ready to zip across to the far shore and explore the little village of Heriot Bay, and our spritely little motor refuses to chug, will scarcely cough or hiccup, listless to the endless arm-tiring tugs of the captain…. An hour passes, and more. The spark plugs, the gas line, the inner workings are all laid bare as the dinghy takes on the look of a mechanic’s work bench. Still no spark, the odd back-fire, no go. And we sit in the bay bereft of power to putt about as the sun rises high and hot. Is God in this moment? Doesn’t feel like it. But He is with us yet, soothing our frustrations, fueling our energies to tinker and to serve with patience. Jim’s arm is weary. His problem solving ideas spent. I dispense screwdrivers and ratchets, sandpaper and a rag, eventually the whole tool box. I offer water, a cool cloth, sunscreen and Gatorade, an orange too for energy, and I pray… Does the motor then just have to start? In my kind of story line, yes. In real life, no. We row the mile and a half to ‘town’ (or rather, my captain does!) with sweat, blisters, and patience. Life is like that sometimes. But its purpose is not trivial.
“The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever.” I think there’s a timing thing we don’t quite get. The here and now seems so large, so present, so all-important. Preserving life and health and happiness starts to look like everything. But it’s a miniscule blip on an endless horizon.
It’s not about our comfort but our conformity to Jesus’ image. This is a part of the redemption going on. It won’t be complete till our bodies are included—“we eagerly wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Rom.8:23)– but in the meantime it seems God’s got designs for our characters that are often best accomplished using circumstance. And through thick and thin He is with us, redeeming every moment for our best good. And that’s a plentiful redemption we can count on!
“Hope in the Lord for with the Lord is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.” (Ps.130:7)
P.S. “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him”…commit your way to Him; delight in Him. Now trust that He will bring it to pass… Don’t fret. Nothing good comes of it. (Ps.37)