How To Live The Spiritual Life: Like A Sailboat Or A Motorboat

From The Wanderer by Msgr. Charles Pope

+ + When I was about 10 years old I took some sailing lessons and then did so again when I was in my early 30s. Sailing involves a kind of romancing of the wind, wherein one observes it and then adapts to it, wooing it, learning its moves, its vicissitudes, its often subtle and changing signs.

How To Live The Spiritual Life
Sailboat off Ellos Scerige

Oh, for the great times when the wind was with us! Catching the wind, the boat would speed along making a slick sound in the water. Oh, too, for those daring and thrilling times when the spinnaker was put out. The boat would almost strain as the proud winds filled her arcing sail.

There were also difficult days, too, days when the winds were contrary and there was the hard work of tacking, beating, and jibing.

Sailing is an image of receptivity. One cannot control the wind, but must simply accept it, taking it as it is. Yes, the sailor must adjust to what is, to learn to accept and work with what is given, to live in the world as it is rather than wishing for the world as it ought to be.

The sailor must simply accept the wind’s biddings and blessings, the way in which it would have us go: this way and that, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. The good sailor accepts that a good strong breeze can suddenly grow calm only to stir again moments later. This is especially the case in the sultry days of summer, when the prevailing winds are less evident and their strength and direction can be local and subtle.

Yes, it is all very mysterious. Indeed, Jesus used the wind as an image for mystery when He said to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Thus the wind and sailing become symbolic of the soul interacting with God. We cannot control God nor should we try. Our role is to sense His direction and put out our sails accordingly. We are to “romance the wind” by growing deeper in our love and trust of God. We are to discover the serenity of accepting what is, of following His lead or receiving what is offered rather than seeking to control or manipulate the outcome.

Sometimes God’s Ruah, His Spirit and breath, is a strong and refreshing wind, as at Pentecost when Scripture says, “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were” (Acts 2:4). At other times, God speaks in a whispering breeze: “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:12-13)

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