by Janice Teo
One day in my life stands out with great clarity. Not the good epiphany kind of clarity; more the my-life-flashed-before-me variety. It was the day my husband and I took part in a sailing competition.
Up to then we had been happy casual sailors, satisfied with jaunts along the coast, safely within reach of medical care and proper toilets because no, the back of the boat doesn’t count.
Sailing can teach you many lessons, foremost of which is this one: life can throw a storm at you any time, anywhere, without any warning. This is precisely what happened to us.
One minute we were exchanging the usual pleasantries of any seafaring couple – “Stop yelling!” “I’M NOT YELLING!!” – and the next the sky was dark and the waves looked like the ash cloud from Mount Vesuvius.
The boat, which up to then had been bobbing along with absolutely no hope of finishing in the top three, suddenly caught the wind in its sails and decided it would try, Chariots of Fire style, to stage a stunning comeback.
In less experienced hands, this would have been a problem. In our less than less experienced hands, it was a disaster. We tossed, we turned, we capsized.
My husband climbed back in with all the dexterity of an Army man used to obstacle courses. I, being of the species Sailorus Ineptus, couldn’t. The officials in the rescue boat hurtling towards us were laughing so hard I wished they would capsize too.
It was seriously difficult to get back into the boat. It seemed like all the forces of nature were conspiring against me. The lashing rain made it hard to see, the boat was bucking like a bronco on steroids, the current and the waves tossed me about, and the life jacket kept pushing up around my head as though seeking to decapitate me.
Finally getting a firm grip, I pushed down with all the strength I could muster and pulled myself up back into the boat while my husband made sure the madly swinging boom didn’t knock me unconscious on my way back in. There’s just so much to love about sailing I wonder why fewer and fewer people are taking it up.
You can see why my mortality suddenly loomed large.
Yet in life we sometimes feel overpowered by circumstances, don’t we? Sometimes they are situations of our own making – I mean, what on earth made us sign up for the race? And sometimes calamity can strike without you having done a thing to warrant it.
Of course, the storm wasn’t half as bad as I’ve described; it only felt that way. The forces for me were as many as the ones against me – my husband’s sure handling of the boat, the rescue officials who pulled alongside when they finally stopped laughing long enough, the fact that the storm in truth was nothing more than heavy rain.
A Christian’s life is just as susceptible to upheavals, but there is a difference – we know Christ is always in the boat with us. He is the perfect captain, not only able not only to steer us through high winds and poor visibility but also bring us into safe harbour again.
Reflecting on my experience in the storm that day gave me the chance to think about what my life would be like if I didn’t have Christ in the boat with me. It was not a pretty picture – life’s high seas seldom are.
That’s why I am so grateful I have given control of my boat of life to the Lord Jesus Christ. As the captain of my ship His sure hand has navigated me through many storms. Sometimes the waves and currents take me in the wrong direction and leave me sputtering, but I have always come back to safe harbor.
Without Jesus I do wonder what may have become of me otherwise.
There is a famous painting, called Christ our Pilot. It shows a young man steering a boat. Jesus stands behind him, one hand on the boy’s shoulder the other pointing the way.
What a beautiful illustration of what it means to have Jesus as our master helmsman helping us steer the proper course for our lives. We just need to surrender to His navigation.
Lessons from an inept sailor
by Janice Teo