The waves were big. The sky was dark and the waves were big.
She knew this was a hard journey. Crazy even. She’d told herself she’d never do this. Never ever. But here she was and she wasn’t turning around. By God, she wouldn’t do that.
She tried to rely on her nautical skills she’d honed her whole life, but this ship was different. She knew she couldn’t depend on her knowledge of the other ships she had steered. This boat was unlike any others she had been on.
It still had the same components – hull, engine, rudder, bow – but the way to navigate it was entirely different. Almost backwards. It felt wrong. But she would not turn back. She was going through. She wanted to get through to the other side so badly that she would press on, hoping she could make it. Hoping God would meet her on the other side, but knowing He wasn’t going to be with her now. She knew she was alone. So she buttoned up her sailor coat, gripped the ship’s wheel and braced herself for the waves.
The storm was relentless. There were times when she thought the vessel might capsize, but she was a good enough sailor that she kept the boat afloat. She could hear the constant ringing of her friends’ voices as she embarked on this journey. What are you doing! She knew she should turn back, but she couldn’t. Nothing inside her told her to. Nothing. Logically she knew the journey was foolhardy, but what would have been more personally mutinous would be to turn around altogether. What was back there was pain. Maybe it was righteous pain; maybe it had purpose and she was a good person there, but it was too painful. She had to go. And though this path wasn’t any sunnier, it felt within her bones too great, too hopeful, too epic to forsake.
She’d been in troubled waters before. This was not new. She had nearly drowned many many times before. The first time she met such terrible waters, she was so overwhelmed, her feeble attempts to stay afloat were recognized and she did not die, but she could only hunker down in the bridge and between clutching the wheel and doing her best, she’d clutch her heart in continual despair, pleading with God to save her. He did, but she moved so slowly through the blast that it lasted many many days. She couldn’t sail out of it fast enough for she was scared and her skills were green. The waves beat against the ship and much of the time she just sat there on the floor, shaking and crunching her eyelids together trying to remember what the sun looked like.
She made it out alive, but she did not reach the destination she so longed for. She found herself back home and eager to set sail again.
The next storm she encountered was just as big, just as scary, but after the years of her early sailing, she had matured and learned so much, that the second gush she met she weathered quite gracefully. That tempest lasted for what seemed forever, but her eyesight so keen and her intuition so sharpened, that her ship cut through the squall with such skill and ferocity that when others heard of the journey, they were quite impressed. How did you do it? they’d query, and though she knew much of the survival was her own, it was God that had bolstered her through that time. God and God alone was with her on that second disturbance and it had made all the difference. She had still been scared and was still greatly fatigued by it all, especially frustrated by the fact she still hadn’t made it to her destination, but she had made it through practically unscathed. Would it sound preposterous to say her clothes were barely whetted by the raging waters outside? It would be, but it would still be true. She had weathered that storm practically bone dry.
What was so astounding by the third storm was the timing of it. Through a series of cataclysmic and what seemed supernatural events, she found herself on a new ship heading straight into a monsoon again. She knew she could turn around for why would any good sailor set forth on a new ship into such treacherous waters when there was really no course set forth? The only known was that it was a path away from the second storm, but even then it wasn’t the only path. She could have stayed on her faithful ship that had secured her survival through the many dark waters they had encountered before. She could have stayed home and left sailing for a while. She wasn’t only a sailor. She was a mother and a friend and a daughter, and so many other things that defined her. So why would she choose to sail on a boat she knew nothing about into a storm to which she knew no end in sight? Because there was something about this journey that compelled her in a deeply passionate way, no less than what she had felt before every time she set sail. But because the vessel was so drastically different, she did not, without sounding too cliché, have her sea legs.
And despite this, something still lured her into the gale. Maybe she was tired of the ship she had been on. It was a sturdy ship but it had never lead her to that magnificent foreign land she had dreamed about her whole life. The manors she had known since childhood were fine, but she had heard of and imagined a land on the other side of the ocean where true love seemed to exist. And so she wanted to go. Oh how she wanted to go. She hadn’t made it on her trusty ship. So she found herself on a new one.
This ship was not given to her by God. She found it on her own, and though she wasn’t looking for it, she had found it and she liked it and wanted to sail on it. This is where her friends’ voices, and even her own, chimed in with declarations of madness and crazy talk. She heard herself talking of this boat and she knew she sounded unlike herself. But she was tired and didn’t want to sail on her accustomed boat anymore. And when she found herself captain of this new bateau, she coordinately found herself sailing back into the eye of a storm, not really understanding why but knowing she couldn’t turn around.
Again, this ship was different. It didn’t have the familiar and shiny instruments she had utilized so daftly before. She felt clunky. She didn’t know her way around and she found herself hunkering down much like she had on her first journey, but this time she knew God was not there to give her hope and help her know she was going to be okay. She operated like she was, but the spiritual reinforcements that had stayed with her on every journey before were not there this time. She clutched her wheel, her heart, her eyelids and saw only blackness. The only piece of peace she did feel was an undeniable yet ever so slight push upon the small of her back, moving her forward through the water. It felt of God, but nothing of this ship nor this journey spoke of blessing, so she’d steer through the waves and wonder what the hell she was doing but knowing she would never turn back.
Then one day the skies broke and the downpour subsided, and she woke up to the sun and the absence of an ever-present roar she had grown accustomed to. The storm had stopped. But she was in the middle of the ocean and no land was in sight.
Panic set in. What had she been thinking? Foolishly she thought there’d be land on the other side of the hurricane. She’d thought once she’d suffered the swells, she’d see the first sliver of land and know paradise was waiting. But before her wasn’t at all what she’d expected. Before her was an ocean vast and wide and unending from every direction. She was out in the middle of nowhere on a strange ship and no earth in sight.
She’d fought so hard on her own and now she didn’t know what to do. There was no crest to surmount, no darkness to illumine with a candle. What had seemed paramount to her survival, her struggle to man her boat successfully, she now realized in horror was simply a distraction to what lie ahead. Just a large vast ocean stretching on and on from her ship to what seemed like forever.
Was this hell? A strange sort of hell out in the beautiful ocean with the sun shining in such a mocking way? Found light, have ya? Well, what are you gonna do now?
She didn’t know. She’d become so self-reliant, that her first instinct was not to call on the God who had held her through the terrible twisters before. But she knew she had to. She had gotten herself into this mess and there was no way to get herself out. She knew that. She had to ask Him for help. She had to ask Him, and it felt like death having to do that.
For what could she say? I’m sorry for ignoring You and rushing into a beating storm, never once asking for Your blessing, but somehow mysteriously feeling Your hand upon my back, but never asking You which way You wanted me to go? I’m sorry for dismissing You over and over again because I knew You didn’t want me on this ship but I equally knew you didn’t want me to drown? I’m sorry? Please help me? I don’t want to die out here in the middle of the ocean?
And she slid down to her buttocks as her knees gave way, and she buried her eyes into her hands and sobbed. It was time to relinquish her position. She could no longer be captain. She had been captain and sailed herself into oblivion. So much for the romance of it all.
After a good long cry, she got up and walked to the starboard and leaned out over the railing, staring into the horizon. She took a deep breath and exhaled in an awkward way, so unfamiliar she considered if she’d been holding her breath her whole life. This was going to be a different sort of journey. She’d only known how to sail in treacherous waters. She knew how to withstand the torrents and steady herself as the ship rocked uncontrollably upon the waves. She knew how to do that. Her journeys before were always quickly met with unfair weather that most of her sailing was through wind, rain, and darkness. What she didn’t know was how to sail in the sunshine when the only obstacle was knowing which way to go.
Direction. She had never asked for direction. Only to make it to the desired land and when met with a challenge, to get through it. She didn’t even know where her compass was. Did she even own one? Wait, there it was. Right next to the wheel. Plain as day. Strategically situated next to the monstrous steering circle. But so what if she’d found a compass? Compasses are only good when you have coordinates. What were her coordinates? She’d have to get those, and as she never availed herself to carry a map, she realized the only way to find her way was to ask God for the way.
There was no going back to her familiar homeland. She didn’t even know which way that was. And though she’d been hell-bound for paradise, she didn’t even know if that’s where God was going to take her. She certainly hoped it was, but she was on a ship that she wasn’t even supposed to be on and the only way to navigate it would be to ask God to do that. Would He christen this ship? Out in the middle of the sea after the journey had already begun?
Yes. Yes He would. He would never leave her. Especially now when she was so lost and so afraid and so confused about what she had done and how she would make it out. Yes, He would lead her and bless her and this ship she’d fallen in love with and wasn’t meant for her to come aboard when she did. But she did. She would make it to land with this barge, but the first thing she had to do was relinquish control of the sailing. She couldn’t desperately, frantically try to figure out how to navigate it as tides pummeled her body. She had to ask God to steer. And that felt very strange. She had done it before but it was years ago when she was on her first ship and there were no gales to challenge. She had been sailing before on calm waters, in the sun, and she had innocently asked God to help her find that land. There was a time when she sailed like that. But those times seemed juvenile because she hadn’t even battered a wave at that point. Surely God wasn’t asking her to try to sail with that naivete again?
No, of course He wasn’t, but there is a childlike quality He often asks for, and so it seemed He was asking her to trust Him like a little girl again even though she was clearly a woman. That seemed a hard feat as the land she had wished to reach was the very pinnacle of NOT being a little girl. That kind of trust she felt called to impart made her nauseous. Was she really to lay down her oars so to speak and let God steer? How could she forget the tempests she had battled? How could she just sit there and serenely look over the waters and know God was leading her without her input and strife whatsoever? This adventure seemed scarier than the first. At least with looming waves, there was action to take. But this sitting on a dry boat, just kinda wistfully, wishfully praying God would lead her to land seemed horrifyingly simple and moronic. Hadn’t she gained some sort of veteran status for a bigger better upsurge to overthrow? Not this mamby pamby sit there and wait and sail on My go? Ugh. Blech. She wanted to throw up. Not out of repulsion but out of terror. If she couldn’t do anything, what is God’s name was she supposed to do?
It was all too terrifying for her, and yet she remembered the old adage, one day at a time. So she brought her knees into her chest, bowed her head, and rocked with the ship as it set a new course to a destination unknown with a new Sailor at the wheel.