I love to sail. There is something about the open water that makes me relax. Then, if you throw in some adventure (e.g. high winds and big waves) the stress disappears very quickly. Yes, it seems odd. The more danger the more serene I am. But, I am something of an odd duck. The sailing company I belong to not only teaches the basics of sailing they move you towards knowing enough to handling your own boat safely. Therefore, the owner has implanted a series of benchmark tests. They are kind of like karate belts. So, for each level you have to know a certain amount of technical knowledge and be able to implement it. After several months of sailing I was at the point where I could be tested for 1st Mate. This is a pretty significant level as it allows you to take the boats out by yourself. It makes sense then that you would need to know quite a bit.
The day came for my test. The owner took me out. I was hoping for a light wind day so that I could pass the test easily. As we began to take the boat out, I thought it was going to be a pretty calm day. The winds were fairly light. The sky was cloudy but peaceful. Things changed very quickly. When we were about two miles out from downtown Chicago, a storm blew up out of nowhere. The winds picked up. And before you know it we were sailing in 35 mph winds. Then, the clouds engulfed Chicago. It began to rain. And literally, the city disappeared. The only thing you could see was clouds. Fairly quickly I became disoriented. I could not tell which way was north or south. I was not sure in which direction was the city. I tried to look calm but inside I was beginning to panic. I told the owner that I could no longer see Chicago (he had gone down below to check on something). He hollered back up, “Use the compass. That is what it is there for.” I thought to myself, “Duh, what a novel idea.” I shook my head thinking there goes a passing grade. But, it worked. I looked at the compass. I got my bearings. And we made it back to the city without any issues. Without the compass I would have been wondering adrift in Lake Michigan, confused and worried. Yet, the compass gave me a fixed point – something reliable and secure, even when the circumstances changed around me.
One of my commitments during Lent is to spend additional time in prayer after I arrive to the office. In the morning I spend some time reading the Bible and in prayer but I wanted to have some further time prior to starting work. It has been a wonderful discipline. I have found myself getting into a good mindset before the work day begins. Over the past week, there have been a couple of days where I arrived at the office tired or edgy. As I took those few moments spending time with God, I found the irritable emotions gradually disappeared. My heart lightened up. The stress faded away. I looked forward to what awaited me. I imagine that if I did not spend time with God, the tired, edgy emotions would have driven the day. They would have influenced my conversations and consumed my joy. Yet, as I spent time with God, my emotions became pointed in the right direction – towards grace, peace, joy, and a desire to serve.
Philippians 4:9 states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Edginess makes me think of worst case scenarios; Christ makes me think of good things. He is my compass. He sets the tone for my mood. Without him, I would be wandering through the circumstances of life being tossed all over the place by my emotions. Yet, in Christ, I find a fixed vantage point – something reliable and secure. Certainly, I still have emotions. Yet, these times of prayer have made them less consuming because Christ calms me. He helps me navigate life. So I am reminded when emotions start to get the best of me, “Look to Christ. That is what he is there for.”
Oh, by the way, I passed the test.