Wednesday, August 20, 2008

August 19, 2008 - Wind Is Relative

This evening, Claire and I go for a moonlit sail on the Toms River, on the boat owned by our friends Myrlene and Eric. We’re also joined by our friend Bill, the executive presbyter of Monmouth Presbytery.

Myrlene and Eric invited us on a similar trip about 10 months ago, but not at night. This cruise is timed for optimal enjoyment of both sunset and moonrise. Conditions tonight are near-perfect. The moon is just past full. The vision is glorious.

Last time we sailed, I was struck by the fact that sailboats need to tack in order to get much of anywhere (see my October 3, 2007 blog entry). That means they proceed in a zigzag fashion. That seemed to me symbolic of the sort of progress I’m making as a cancer survivor. Straight-ahead movement is not always possible. Sometimes tacking is the only way to get there.

This evening, Eric gives us another lesson. As I’m standing behind the wheel, steering the boat under his supervision, he explains what it means to “fall off.”

This nautical expression doesn’t mean stepping off the side of the boat and ending up in the drink. It does mean to turn the prow of the boat away from the direction of the wind. The opposite of “fall off” is to “head up” – to point the prow in the direction from which the wind is coming.

Perhaps the most important item of information a sailor needs to know is the direction of the wind. As Eric gives me tips on which way to point the boat so we stay in the channel, he doesn’t just say, “Turn right” or “Turn left” (nor even “Turn to starboard” or “Turn to port,” as I would have expected). The language of absolutes is not useful here. The wind changes, as does our position relative to it. Other realities – such as the location of the channel and its marker buoys – do not. They belong to the earth. Our mast and sail, pointed heavenward, belong to the sky. Our forward progress depends on our constantly adapting to breezy, insubstantial realities. Keeping the boat in the channel involves a multitude of small adjustments, based on numerous relative factors – chief among them being wind direction.

Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as wind. The Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma both mean “breath” or “wind.” As we navigate through any of life’s challenges – but especially the challenge of living with cancer – we need to remain aware of the touch of the wind upon our face. Always we seek to discern the direction from which the Spirit-wind is blowing.

That wind varies in intensity. Sometimes it’s a soft kiss upon the cheek. Other times it’s gale force, unmistakable. The wind also varies in direction. Sometimes we feel it on our face; other times, from the back. Whichever way the wind is blowing, some forward progress is still possible – just not always by the most direct route.

Sometimes we fall off. Other times we head up. Whatever the case, we need to heed the lessons of the wind, and adjust our progress accordingly.


Stushie said...

Beautiful post, Carl. Thanks for sharing the experience and your scriptural analogy is just perfect.

Anonymous said...

Loved this ! And always be mindful of the "accidental jibe", which I am fond of saying is the most dangerous of the jibes. It comes when the wind shifts on down-wind. That boom can swing around quickly and really hurt someone. That's the thing about sailing and life, just when you think its going smoothly, the wind shifts and adjustments must be made.Quickly. MB