The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. – PSALM 16:9
From Pastor Bill Fleming
The Wind and the River
The Nile River runs through Egypt from south to the north. In ancient times, people found it easy to ship goods northward. They just followed the current. But to move goods south took effort. They either had to row or pole the boat against the current, but the moment they stopped rowing or poling, they went backward. Oars made little progress against the constant current. One may as well get out and walk.
Then someone came up with a great idea. Why not make the wind do the work? So someone got a piece of cloth, put it on a pole, and tied both the ends to the boat. Sails were born, and life on the river became a lot easier. They could follow the current north, and let the wind blow them south.
+ + +
Sailboats are a parable of the Christian life.
The world, flesh and the Devil pull us constantly away from God. Human nature runs counter to divine nature. “We are born to trouble as sparks fly upward” – says Job 5:7. Every step forward seems to be followed by two steps back.
But they are not the only forces acting upon us. The Spirit of God is always drawing us in a Godly direction. To do that, he is constantly ReDirecting us. By harnessing the Spirit, even in the toughest times, we can still make progress towards being like Jesus.
St. Ignatius wrote about the two forces which work to direct and ReDirect us. He called them consolations and desolations.
- Desolations are the powers of the world, the flesh, and the Devil that push us away from God. When we try to fight them alone, it is three against one. We are doomed to fail unless we learn to harness the Spirit of God.
- Consolations are the energizing and enabling force of the Spirit, pushing us closer towards godliness. Following Christ can be effortless if we learn to catch the Wind of the Spirit. Then we draw closer to him, not by our own power, but by His.
+ + +
Sometimes we can feel the wind of the Spirit at our backs—in times of ReVival and ReNewal, for example. During those times we need to put on all the sail we can. ReJoice, praise God, and spend time in thankful praise. When we feel grateful and hopeful, these are the best times to work on growing the fruit of the Spirit, spending time in His presence, and giving Him free rein in us.
In times of desolation, the wind seems to be at our front, and it seems much harder to be motivated by the Spirit. Yet in these times, we can still make progress by “tacking.”
In a headwind, sailors learned to point their sails at an angle, and their rudders firmly fixed forward. In this way, even a headwind can pull you forward.
We can do something like this to keep moving forward in hard times. The Spirit helps us ReDirect our way of looking at difficulties, so that our problems are invitations. The energy of our emotional and spiritual distress can be used to drive us to greater resolution in prayer.
- When we are unable to meet together, God is inviting us to deeper times alone.
- When we lose our livelihood, God is inviting us to discover His ability to provide.
- When we are tempted by lust or gluttony, God is inviting us to discover the joys of self-control.
- When we are tempted by anger and fear, God is inviting us to discover His peace that passes all understanding.
How can you fight the current? You can’t. Let the Spirit do the fighting. God is inviting you to take hold of His strength and discover His power in your life.
+ + +
A novice in a monastery once asked his master. “How can I hasten my experience of spiritual enlightenment?”
“You can’t,” he said. “There is no way to hasten it. It comes from God. You can no more hasten enlightenment than you can hasten the sun coming up in the morning.”
This made the novice angry. “But then, what’s the value in doing of all these prayers and spiritual exercises? Why am I trying so hard to do them?”
The master smiled. “They are just to make sure you stay awake until the sun comes up.”
+ + +
The Holy Spirit is the wind that blows as He wishes and how He wishes. He will bring us one day to become a perfect likenesses of Jesus, the divine Son of God. He will change us how and when He wishes. Our part is not to struggle hard, but to let the Spirit work in us. We may not be able to beat the current, but we can always ride the wind of the Holy Spirit.
As Paul says in Romans 8:38-39
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The current of our world often flows away from God and against his ways. In what ways are the currents of our culture pulling you in unhealthy directions.
How have you been experiencing the winds of the Spirit, allowing you to move with God rather than float with the world?
Pray for the wind of the Spirit to blow through you – directing and ReDirecting your life in ReFreshing ways.