Friday, November 06, 2009

Boats, Rafts & Sailing in the Wind

Growth is a byproduct of grace, effort, and discernment.

One of the things that has been helpful to me in understanding the process of growth (spiritual formation) and the inter-workings of “grace,” “effort” and “discernment” is comparing the differences between a motorboat, a raft, and a sailboat.

In a motorboat I'm in charge. I determine how fast we're going to go, and in what direction. Some people approach spiritual life that way. If I'm just aggressive enough, if I have enough quiet times, I can make transformation happen on my own. Usually that results in people becoming legalistic, then pride starts to creep in, and things get all messed up.

Some people have been burned by that kind of approach. So they go to the opposite extreme and will say, "I'm into grace." It's like they're floating on a raft. If you ask them to do anything to further their growth, they'll say, "Hey, no. I'm not into works. I'm into grace. You're getting legalistic with me." So they drift. There are way too many commands in Scripture for anybody to think that we're called to be passive.

On a sailboat, however, I don't move if it's not for the wind. My only hope of movement is the wind. I can't control the wind. I don't manufacture the wind. Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind.

John 3:8
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.

Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind. But there is a role for me to play, and part of it has to do with what I need to discern.

A good sailor will discern, Where's the wind at work? How should I set the sails? Spiritual formation is like sailing.[1]

Wise sailors know that their main task is being able to "read" the wind - to practice discernment. An experienced sailor can simply look at a lake and tell where the wind is blowing strongest, or look at the sky and give a weather forecast. A wise sailor knows when to raise and lower which sails to catch the wind most effectively.[2]

Where is the Wind blowing in your life right now? How will you begin to orient yourself to catch-the-wind?

[2] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 51.

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