Once, while in my early twenties, I invited a girl from work to go sailing with me. I was in the habit of inviting friends to go sailing as my sailboat, an Albacore, was less likely to capsize with the weight of at least two people. Shortly into this particular sail I recognised a problem. My friend was sitting too close to me. I kept moving further back in the boat. So did she. I began to have this sinking feeling that she thought she was my date. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was my ballast.
Having moved as far to the rear of the boat as I could, and having nowhere left to go, I thought about jumping ship. Now during a gentle sail I would often go for a swim off the boat in the middle of the lake. Chemong Lake is very weedy, especially around the edges, so the best place for swimming is in the middle. My friend and I jumped in, giving me the opportunity to create some distance between us. But as all good things come to an end, we decided to get back in the boat and head back to shore. I got in all right but my friend struggled…and failed. Now it was up to me to rescue her.
“Great,” I thought to myself, “now not only will she think she is my date, she will think I am her hero.” But despite my best efforts, I was not strong enough to haul her in. I was a lousy hero, she was good ballast.
Being a good swimmer, she began swimming for shore. Being a fair distance from the dock however, she soon got tired. What to do? Being ever resourceful I came up with a solution. I threw a line out the back of the boat and I towed her in.
You may remember that I have already mentioned the weeds that grow all around the shore of the lake. I can’t describe the screams of my friend as I dragged her through those weeds. Funny how things turn out sometimes. I think my friend was hoping to be my date on a nice sail. Instead she was my ballast who found herself being dragged through the weeds.
The Christian life can be like that. We give our lives to God and we expect smooth sailing. We pray, or commit to a number of other spiritual disciplines and we expect things to turn out ‘nicely’. Instead, we find ourselves being dragged through the weeds. Suffering comes and we wonder why. But we are human, and troubles are a part of the human lot no matter how religious or righteous we are or are not. So why bother with Jesus then? Because God has thrown us a line. And despite the weeds there is a better world ahead in the here and now as we respond to the message of Jesus, the message of love, grace and laying down our lives and agendas for others. Despite the weeds, in addition to a line to a better world, there is also a line to eternal life as we cling to the work of Jesus on our behalf.
May we never seek smooth sailing so much as a good line through the weeds.