There is nothing like being in love, being at the helm of a sailboat, feeling the breeze on your face, smelling the salt water, hearing the sea gulls, and gliding through the sea at sail. Pure joy. There is also nothing like questioning the wisdom of being in love, being at the helm of a sailboat, having no breeze in your face, smelling salt mixed with diesel exhaust, not being able to hear anything but the churning sound of a diesel engine, and not being able to see past the bow of your vessel because you are suddenly in fog as thick as pea soup. Pure terror.
That pretty much describes what happened to my husband Chip and me when we departed Anclote Key on New Year’s Day in 1985. Since there were only two of us, we each shared time at the helm on two-hour watches. For the non-sailors, that meant that each of us was awake with full responsibility for steering the boat, keeping us on course, staying aware of our surroundings, and protecting not only ourselves but our fellow sailor who had the luxury of a two-hour nap. Repeat every two hours. Now, let’s add to this the reality of the date of this adventure—1985, which meant no cell phones, no GPS, no radar, unless you count a contraption that looked like a Moravian Star covered in tinfoil hoisted up the mast in hopes that any ships crossing our paths would see “it” with THEIR radar.
I stood at the helm in the foggy night, terrified. Then came my comforter. Somewhere in the darkness and fog in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico with no land in sight, I heard a sound. Not the horn of a ship, thank you Jesus. It was more like a tapping sound and was coming from the starboard side towards the stern. I shined my flashlight in the direction of the sound, and immediately a shape darted through the water towards the bow of the boat. What in the world? After only a few more minutes, I heard the sound again. Once again, I shined the light of my flashlight towards the sound and, once again, the shape darted through the water at lightning speed.
This time I recognized the source of my shortness of breath—a friend, a porpoise, a helper, a comforter. I do not know if there was one or a pod, but for the entirety of my two-hour watch, this game continued. Then, after my two-hour nap, my friends returned and played for the length of my watch. This pattern not only continued all night long but resumed the next evening and for the complete journey across the Gulf of Mexico until we were safely in the Destin Pass.
To this day I wear a bracelet of porpoises to remind me that, in the midst of fear, I am never alone. A constant reminder of the ability to overcome fear with courage, the promises of God, and the help of a comforter.
For the past month, my friends, we have been surrounded by a growing fog of uncertainty, of grief, of loneliness, of fear, of heartbreak. We are grateful to be a people of faith and know of God’s promises…
Read: Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. God is right there with you. God won’t let you down; God won’t leave you.
What are your fears? Who or what are your comforters?
I the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my peoples’ cry…Here am I
Call a friend. Text a colleague. Read a Psalm. Keep a journal. Write a poem. Dream of everything you will do when you are free from the confines of isolation. One thing a day for you and one thing a day for someone else. We are all on two-hour watches.
Friends, on this day and every day, plot your course even if you have to tack your sails, even if you have to raise the storm jib, even if you have to have relief after a two-hour watch and rest on this journey. You have the tools, you have the courage, you have the assurance of a comforter…and sometimes it might look a lot like “Flipper.” 😊
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
We are grateful to Dawn Hare, General Secretary for the General Commission for the Status and Role of Women, for writing this month’s issue of Encouragements. Dawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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