Life is a lot like sailing. God the Father is like the open sea. He is infinite and unpredictable. The Holy Spirit is like the wind. Jesus is like the North Star. The church is like the ship, and the Bible is like the compass. There is one more piece to the analogy that needs a little context. It comes from the story Voyage of the Dawn Treader in The Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace are on a voyage across the sea toward the land of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. As they get closer to his land they notice that the water and the air start to change. The water becomes sweet and more like light. There is a presence that both quickens and calms the spirit. It is a beautiful place. The sea of life, in our analogy, is like that.
The destination of this journey is the heart of God’s love. The direction of God’s love is “north” and Jesus is the one fixed point in the universe that leads us to that place. We are all sailing – every one of us. The power that propels the ship is the Spirit.
Let’s stop there for a moment. The Spirit is the wind. If you have ever sailed or read about the great sailing vessels of the 18th and 19th centuries, then you know the kind of relationship that the sailor has with the wind. The wind is the power, the energy, for the boat. Yet, the wind is also the power that can destroy the boat. When the wind is not blowing, the sea is calm. That’s nice for taking in a sunset and having a nap, but it leaves you dead in the water. When the wind blows it causes the sea to become rough. The sailing is difficult, but the boat begins to move. There are two things that a sailor must do in relation to the wind. First, he must fear it. If you do not respect the awesome power of the wind; if you take it for granted, then it could destroy you. Secondly, he must learn to tap into its power so that his boat can be propelled through the water.
In this spiritual journey of life (remember, it’s all spiritual) we are invited to sail into the heart of God’s love. The only way that we can successfully do this is to learn the art of sailing. That is the purpose of the spiritual disciplines. We must learn how to read the stars, having the North Star (Jesus) fixed in the center. We must learn how to use the compass (the Bible) and the Sextant (theology) to continually figure out where we are. We must learn how to hoist the sails and turn the rudder (prayer and worship). Finally, we must realize that we cannot operate the vessel alone and it takes a crew to make it work (fellowship). We are a community at sea. We must sail together. If we don’t know how to hoist the sails, read the instruments, and work together, then we will be blown against the reefs of despair, division, hatred, greed, bitterness, resentment, etc. But, if we can respect and work within the wind, then we can sail across the infinite expanse and voyage deeper into the heart of God.