Over the 4th of July weekend, I got to spend time with relatives at Lake Michigan and go sailing in my uncle's catamaran. I'm far from an expert, but I learned a few things about the sailboat, its workings, and its relationship to the wind. I got to steer a few times, and it got me thinking about wind in a new way. Wind is an elusive thing to work with, because we can't see it. Yet by watching what it does, people have learned how it works and are able to harness its power for many uses. On a sailboat, you have to learn to know what direction the wind is blowing. But when you're moving, all you feel is the wind in your face made by your own motion. So you have to learn to read signals in the sails. How do you move with something you can't see? It brought to mind this word picture in the Bible.
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
If you are born again in Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you. We are told to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). The Bible describes the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. that the Spirit produces in our lives (Gal. 5:22). But how do we move with Someone we can't see?
I was sailing with someone who has years of experience and was directing me in how to steer the rudders and catch the wind. Even then, I got off course several times. Until you understand how to read the sails and position yourself favorably to the wind, a pleasant sail can turn into a stalemate. A slight drifting off your trajectory causes power loss to the sail, and unless you quickly readjust the rudders, before you know it you are facing directly into the wind. This is called being "in irons". The name conjures up a picture of someone in prison, clamped in iron cuffs. They're not going anywhere. When your boat gets in irons, you're going nowhere. It's futile to struggle against the wind. In the old days, boats had square sails that needed to be pushed by wind directly behind them. Sails today are different. They act like airplane wings; as the wind flow over and underneath the wing creates lift, so the flow along the sides of the sails creates the power to push the boat. You need to have the wind coming diagonally against one side of your sail or the other, depending on which direction you want to go. And you have to make continual small adjustments to stay on course. In our walk with the Spirit of God, if we are not tuned in to His voice and don't know how to follow His impulses, we end up fighting Him and no fruit can come from our lives. And it is so easy to get off course, following our own impulses. However, when we walk in step with the Spirit, we have power to touch lives for Christ and He produces the fruit of the Spirit in us. Following God requires constant adjustments to His Word (changing our thoughts and actions), and His will (changing our desires). Only Christ in us can make these changes. Both in sailing and in my spiritual life, it seems like a complicated work to keep on course and in tune with the wind. When I get out of step with the Spirit, I find myself being tossed back and forth on waves of doubt, or drifting in aimless circles, looking for meaning where it can't be found, and at times I come to a complete standstill, where I cannot move forward with God. We are weak, but let us take comfort in these promises: And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6
Let us pray daily for grace to walk in step with the Spirit.