What to you do when you want to sail and the wind does not blow? Literally and figuratively does not blow?
My literal experience recently was…no sailing.
I like the old made for TV movie series of Horacio Hornblower, about a young British naval officer in the 1800’s. The big old sailing ships and their adventures! In one episode you see the whole crew hanging out on deck with NO, I repeat NO wind blowing at all. Some are board, some frustrated, others are looking to create some action that can only lead to trouble while some; literally whittle the time away. No one is able to move the ship in any direction. A ship full of men, unable to control their circumstances, hoping for God to blow the wind again and all they can do is wait.
So I ask, how do I respond when I am “becalmed” by life’s circumstances? My responses may vary according to how grounded I am in believing that God really does work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to His purposes. I honestly do not like that verse sometimes. (Rom 8:28) It feels as if it paints such a happy face on things when I might prefer to lick my wounds of self-pity and anger.
For my literal situation recently, it turned out well. I took my house guests who had hoped to sail, but couldn’t for lack of wind. We climbed in the car and used that power to sightsee and find a place for some genuine conversation. The kind of heart to heart that is of eternal value when tender hearts allow those who have walked before to reach over and pull them a little closer to Abba’s heart. That’s a good outcome.
Figuratively, what do you do when you are becalmed? You are stuck where you are, and only God can move you to the next point. You may not even know where that next point is. There are many choices; anger, frustration, and sorrow among them. I have tried all of these! Honestly, they are not very satisfying in the long run. They also put me in positions where I, or someone, must clean up the mess these negative emotions make of relationships and circumstances. When I am becalmed in any area of life and choosing the path of frustration, those who know me have learned to give me a wide berth. I have been known snap at anyone in my path. The sorry thing is I am usually not angry with them, but myself. Fortunately, this does not happen nearly as much as in the past.
One response I am learning to cultivate is peace. I most easily find peace though worship. God is good and faithful, ALL the time. He cannot change. So why not think about the good I have in Abba instead of focusing on what I don’t have? Worship for me often begins with thanksgiving. 1 Thes. 5:16-18 says: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
These are another few verses I bristle at if I am in a frame of mind to lick my wounds. Yet I have learned from experience that releasing the frustrations to God and pressing in to the truths of these promises and commands really make a difference!
Choosing to “look up” is the key. If I keep me and my circumstances at the center of what I am thinking, I cannot get very far. If I focus on the author and perfector of my faith, with His character and complete ability to meet me wherever I am, I can rise above my circumstances, opening the door for God to act. Then I begin to sense hope.
Do I always, or even often make that choice myself? I wish I could honestly say I do. I like to think I do consistently more than not though. Sometimes I find myself choosing the lesser options, but from enough experience…in both directions, I find I am able to right my course before negative reinforcement knocks me silly.
I did get out to sail a few days later. We were becalmed part of the time. Again, it gave way to some quality conversation. It also was a place of rest on the ocean. I do not take as much advantage of the calm places in my life as I would like, so having them presented to me without another option can be therapeutic. I am learning. Eventually the wind picked up and we enjoyed the wind blowing in the sails and at our backs. It is so much better when God is filling the sails.
So what happened to Horacio Hornblower and his sailors? Well, they had been becalmed in fog. When the fog lifted, they found themselves dangerously close to an enemy ship! They snapped to action! Feats of trickery and bravery ensued and they won the battle. They nearly always did, and we do also, with the help of Christ.
What do you do when you are “becalmed?”
What do you do to bring yourself back when/if you find yourself reacting negatively?