Once upon a time there was a man who owned a radio-controlled sailing boat. It was a beautiful boat that was a model of an early America’s Cup 6 metre yacht, and it had been built by one of the man’s friends. The boat was 5 feet long and with the mast and sail was over 6 feet tall.
The man loved the sleek, graceful lines of the boat. He loved how the British Racing Green hull merged with the blue keel, separated by a white stripe. He loved the feel of the wooden deck and how all of the fittings on the boat were miniature replicas of the real thing.
He loved the fact that there were limited controls for the boat. He could control the direction by turning the rudder and he could control the speed by tightening or loosening the sails. But everything else was at the mercy of the wind and tides. There was no engine. The man enjoyed watching how a small movement on the radio control sticks caused the rudder to twitch or the lines on the boat to move.
The man was really happy with his boat.
But he was also anxious about his boat. What if when he sailed it the batteries ran out and he was unable to communicate with it any longer? What if it capsized in the middle of a lake? What if it got stuck on an underwater obstruction? What if it hit something and sank?
All of these anxieties would build up in the man’s mind and he would be afraid to take the boat sailing.
But sometimes instead of the anxieties he would remember how beautiful the boat looked as it sailed gracefully across a lake. He would remember the calming sound of the water lapping against the hull as the boat glided through it. He would remember the joy of being able to sail the boat into the wind, across the wind and ahead of the wind. He would remember how happy it all made him feel.
And then the man would pack his boat into his car and go off to sail it. The anxieties might still surface but the joy and relaxation he got from seeing the boat doing what it was built to do was far greater. And when he got to share that with his friends the experience was multiplied.
What holds you back from doing what you are made to do? Are you holding someone else back?
Our flights to and from Sweden were fairly uneventful. Apart from one moment. Remember that this was only a matter of days since the Egypt Air plane crashed in the Mediterranean, possibly (probably?) caused by a bomb.
We were seated in a row of three, and in the seat next to us was a man who didn’t really make eye contact with me. He was not in a chatty mood. During the flight he looked a bit anxious and then, rather alarmingly, on a couple of occasions he leant forward and laid his head on his knees. If I mention that he looked to be of North African descent and that he looked like he was praying then you might understand how uneasy it made me. The thought did cross my mind that he might have somehow got a bomb on board the plane and was waiting for it to go off.
It’s not that I am afraid of dying – I have absolute faith in Jesus about my eternal destiny. But the fleeting thought crossed my mind in the moment of anxiety that I don’t really want to die in a painful way. And I thought that I would rather not die yet as I have lots I would like to do. And I thought of the impact on those whom I love and might miss me and I didn’t want them to be upset.
It may be that if there had not been an apparent terrorist bombing of a plane the week before I might not have been so anxious. I can’t say. But what that moment revealed about me troubles me.
Call me untrusting.
Call me suspicious.
Call me paranoid.
Perhaps even call me racist.
Those things might be true of me in that moment. I hope and pray that they are not. I need to work through with myself and God whether any of them are, and if my thoughts were unfair or unjustified. I have sought forgiveness for them and asked for God’s Spirit’s help to change me so that I am not like that in future.
In that moment I did pray. I prayed for safety. But, thank God, I did at least also pray for the man next to me – that his stress and anxiety would diminish.
As I reflect on the events from the comfort of my study I also pray the following prayer…
“Please God, cleanse me from all of the taints and tarnish of suspicion or even racism that cling to me because of what I hear on the news and events that go on around the world. Forgive me when I act and react because of them rather than because of you. Please God help me always to think the best of people, because you do. Please God help me to be like Jesus on the cross when I am in situations where I am anxious – and think of the welfare of others before myself. “
Yesterday I had my car serviced and it had its annual MOT test. I always put my car in for those tests with a sense of nervousness and apprehension. Will there be something that has gone wrong that will cause the car to fail? Will it be expensive?**
It is the fear of the unexpected and unpredictable that can be far more disabling than the fear of what is expected and known. So, for example, we know that lions like to eat people, and it wise to use our natural fear of being eaten to ensure that we don’t put ourselves in a position where that can happen. We keep lions in Africa, or in zoos and safari parks, and we keep a safe distance from them. What would be scary would be if a lion escaped from a zoo or a safari park near us – we would not know if it was nearby and if it was going to attack us.
I think that is why some people are afraid of the future – we don’t know what it will bring and cannot always control it. That is why some people refer to their horoscopes in order to try to prepare themselves for what lies ahead.
There’s a great old hymn by Daniel Whittle which includes these words:
I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.
But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.
That security does not mean we won’t be afraid, but knowing the one who knows the whole of time, what has past and what is to come, means that we are in safe hands no matter what life can throw at us.
Be blessed, be a blessing
*possibly the most ridiculous bloggage title yet
**As it happened, the car passed but needed some new tyres, in case you want to know the end of the story.