(Continuing my attempt to create a few parables of my own as a spiritual exercise…)
Here’s another parable “on the pond:” The kingdom of God shall be compared to a sailboat that has been tied securely to a dock or to the buoy, with paddles and life-preservers stowed and sails properly folded and tied down, lest a storm come up and carry them all down the lake.
On our lake, one can pretty much always tell what kind of weather is coming based on what direction the waves are moving. For instance, if the wind is blowing in such a way that waves are starting to hit the dock from the east, even if the sun happens to be shining, before too long clouds will gather and the weather will become unsettled; basically, the bigger the waves, the quicker the change! Admittedly, this method of prognostication has long been the subject of much spirited debate in my family, and to say the least, my wife and children remain skeptical (!); but for my part, all I can say is that I’ve come to understand both the gentle ebb and flow of summer days in Maine and have gained a profound awareness of God’s presence “from season to changing season” simply by observing the ways that the wind shifts “on the pond.” I’ve also learned that from time to time – particularly when the wind starts blowing from out of the northwest and gusts flow down from the hills in every direction – a storm is coming, so you need to be ready… and secure!
In my family, there’s a story that gets told just about every summer about how once when I was a but a callow youth I was awakened in the wee hours of one morning to swim out to our sailboat that was buoyed a few yards out from the dock; this to fix lines and sails that were flapping all over everywhere because after a leisurely sail the day before I had tied them down in such a haphazard fashion… oh, and did I mention that all this was in the midst of a torrential downpour and blowing gale, the likes of which are rarely seen in that part of the world?
Or, at least it seemed that way to me at time; suffice to say, I was not a happy camper about being awakened before sunrise to fix my mistake, and even less pleased to do so in the pelting rain while trying in vain to secure a jib and mainsail that were already flying willy-nilly as the wind continued to blow unabated! Eventually I did manage to take care of things before either the boat or I became totally waterlogged; in the process, however, I did learn something very important; yes, about doing things correctly the first time (!), but also about how quickly a storm can devastate you if you’re not properly secured.
One thing about our Christian faith that’s important to acknowledge is that Jesus never told his disciples, nor does he tell us that life will be easy; nor did he ever claim that faith would be the panacea for all of life’s problems (on the contrary; he was very clear that faith and discipleship might just might lead to more problems than we had in the first place!). Quite honestly, I’ve personally found that truth to be rather challenging at times; and pastorally speaking, I can tell you that if there’s one piece of theology that becomes a “sticking point” for new believers, it’s that. No, Jesus doesn’t promise that all the weather of life will by “sunny and in the mid ‘70’s;” but the good news is that Jesus did promise that if we put our faith in him, we will find the courage and the strength to not only endure the storms of life, but also have hand to hold on to as we walk through it.
The one knot that I’ve never forgotten how to tie and that I know absolutely, positively holds is the same one with which I’ve been securing that sailboat since I was a kid. It’s basically a coil of rope with the line eventually looping through the center of it, and the thing about it is that harder the wind blows, the greater the current pulling against it, the tighter and more secure the knot becomes. This is what God does for us; it’s what I’ve experienced with God in my own life, because I know that without that knot, all my lines and sails would be unraveled and I’d be floundering helplessly down the pond.
To be focused on God’s kingdom is to be tied up securely; because like it or not, ready or not, the wind will eventually shift in our lives; and it’s going to storm! So it’s good to make sure we’ve got our lives secured with that which won’t let go of us, no matter what.
Still another parable to come…
c, 2014 Rev. Michael W. Lowry