An interesting image in meeting yesterday. “CS” rose after the break of worship to share a story from a old Quaker journal he’s been reading. The minister in question was in England at the time and felt a strong leading to visit Friends in Ireland. Being dutiful he arranged passage in a ship heading west and boarded it thinking he would soon reach his destination. But the winds didn’t coöperate. The currents didn’t coöperate. In an era before diesel engines and jet fuel the fulfillment of traveling intentions were dependent upon outside forces: wind, current, trails, weather. The poor Quaker’s ship went around in circles for a week and finally ended up in the port it had departed.
We expect today that when we set out to accomplish something it will get done. But there are always unexpected currents to contend with, uncooperative winds, sandbars and shoals and God may well be involved in these blocks. Our duty as people of faith is to get on the boat. We might not get to our Ireland and that may not be the real purpose of our leading. Maybe our job is to learn to catch fish from the boat. Perhaps our faithfulness in apparent failure is a lesson for the disbelieving sailors on board. And maybe the lesson is for us, to remain faithful in the mystery and confusion of God’s roadblocks.
The modern impulse is to win, to accomplish, to neutralize dissent, problem-solve and succeed. As Friends, we’ve inherited some of this attitudes and often want to take our spiritual leadings and run with them as if
God’s part is over. We set up committees, write mission statements,
hire staff: we lock our ship’s course in a particular direction, crank
up the engines and plow ahead. These can be useful tools, certainly, but somehow there’s a lesson for us in that little boat going around in circles.