My dog Monster is terrified of storms. We can tell when one is coming because she takes to her refuge behind a chair in a corner of the living room. She won’t come out unless we drag her out to put on her ThunderShirt.
I suppose with her little bat-like ears, she can hear the thunder and the wind much better than we can. She’s a rescue pup, so she probably spent much of the first year of her life outside, stuck in storms, exposed to the cold rain and the noise of the storm.
But Louisa May Alcott said, “I am not afraid of storms of life, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
As humans, we are arguably smarter than dogs. If nothing else, we have the ability to think in metaphor and comprehend series of events.
In preparing for this afternoon, I came across a comparison to Christ as the wind, with us as sails. I decided to flow with it. So here goes:
The wind never stops. There is always some ruffle in the atmosphere. Sometimes the wind is mild, a gentle breeze refreshing us on a warm afternoon. Sometimes it’s a cold wind, causing us to pull up our coats as we hurry to work. Sometimes it’s fierce, powerful, moving objects big and small, causing damage to buildings and uprooting trees.
The wind is going to move us somehow, but it’s up to us to determine how we respond to it. Do we fight the wind or do we embrace it? Do we pull out a windbreaker or do we dig in the closet for the kite we bought at Ocean City a few years ago and find an open space to fly it? Do we shutter ourselves inside or do we erect windmills?
If we think of Christ as the wind, we can think of ourselves as sails. What do we do with that wind? Do we fight it or embrace it? Do we use as much as possible, or do we use only a little of it? Do we try to ignore it and continue on under our own power?
I’m not a sailor, so if you are, just pretend I’m giving a proper analogy here. If the wind is coming from the east and we want to head east, we turn the sail a certain way to capture that wind and use it to its full advantage. But if the wind is coming from a different direction than we want to go, we have to compensate. We have to turn the sail another way or pull it down altogether and power on through other means, means that are artificial or less efficient.
Christ is our guide. Our readings today have a very clear theme of being faithful, of trusting in that which we cannot see, perhaps cannot understand. At the Passover supper, the Israelites trusted God would pass over their houses. Abraham trusts that God will lead him and his family to a better place, will provide him a son and descendants. A servant trusts that his master will be home at some point and knows he is better off staying prepared for that moment than attempting to scramble when word comes that he’s on the way.
If I’m fighting a headwind that seems to be making it impossible to get where I need to go, perhaps it’s time for me to consider that I am not meant to be going in that direction at that time. You all know I was supposed to go to India last year. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t meant to be—I was facing obstacle after obstacle every time I turned around. The ‘wind’ was throwing the trash can around, sending the rain sideways, practically prying the roof off of the house I was trying to rent. It didn’t work. Finally (through the guidance and support of some amazing people), I stopped fighting the wind. I recognized that it was going to be a nearly impossible feat to get to India just then. Instead of trying to conquer the wind—the reality that God had more imminent plans for me right here in Baltimore, I accepted it. I cut the onboard motor, adjusted my sail, and took off in the wind, making far better time and enjoying the journey. And then I met Kevin, so yeah, definitely the right move.
I am not going to pretend that the wind always blows in a clear direction. Sometimes we have hurricanes or tornados in our lives. These events are incomprehensible. We don’t know which way is up, and we can’t figure out what kind of plan God might have in mind. Still, there is always the calm after the storm. Communities come together and have cookouts to cook up everything in their freezers before it goes to waste because the power is out and BGE says it’s going to be out for days, maybe weeks. A neighborhood that was full of strangers becomes a neighborhood full of friends, a thing that wouldn’t have happened without that storm.
It isn’t a perfect analogy; I don’t believe God causes devastation and pain just for kicks and giggles or out of vengeance. But I do believe that there is constantly a presence in our lives—the presence of Christ—and when we embrace that presence, we find the going a little bit easier.