Over the last couple of days my role as shore crew and photographer has been swapped for the role of sailing crew in our dingy Wild Goose. I have sailed before, first as a teenager taking part in junior racing, and then now and again when Tim has been abandoned by our girls.
My sailing skills are very rusty, and this weekend has seen me experiencing a huge learning curve. Tim thankfully has not minded my rather clumsy attempts at moving around the boat and we have enjoyed sailing together.
As we negotiated the racing circuit this afternoon I began to remember the need to keep making small adjustments to my position within the boat and to the sail that I was responsible for. Sailing on a lake has brought some interesting challenges, including the strange and shifting winds. The winds are affected by the hills and trees surrounding the lake and can change direction quite suddenly. I am glad that Tim's' experience of sailing means that he can spot the wind-shifts and react accordingly.
Tim spoke of sailing the boat in sympathy with the conditions, and how not forcing moves and working with the winds gained the best from the boat. I have been reflecting on that in the light of Jesus words about the Holy Spirit;
"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)
You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; as far as the wind was concerned today that was certainly my experience, but those who were used to reading the movement in the trees and the ripples on the water knew otherwise. They could see the wind, they were listening and watching for it. They were utilising the power of the wind to the gain an advantage and make good progress.
This watching and waiting and listening exercise was carried out while the boats were underway and called for constant vigilance. It made me wonder what might happen if we Christians as individuals and as a church were so attentive to the moves of the Spirit, and if we actively sought to work in sympathy with what we observed and sensed.
One crew out on the lake were doing some quite aggressive tacking, forcing their boat to roll into the wind, which gained it some momentum, but it slowed up again. Tim believes that forcing the boat through a tack might gain a momentary advantage but will ultimately prove detrimental. I wonder whether we mirror this sometimes as we rush into activities and dive headlong into " new ideas" without correctly discerning the presence and move of the Spirit amongst us.
As far as sailing goes my moves are currently the result of one who is out of shape and out of practice.... and I ask myself where I stand with my ability to respond to the winds of the Spirit.