Posted in encouragement, theology

Night Passages: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. (Isaiah 59:10).

I lived on a sailboat for two years. We made a journey from Maine to the Bahamas and back, twice. We mainly followed the Intracoastal Waterway, a series of connected rivers, bays, channels, and canals that allow marine traffic up and down the coast without having to sail the open sea. Though, we did make passages “outside” too.

Sometimes we made overnight passages on the outside. If we wanted to get to a place more quickly. or as quickly as one can in a sailboat that goes 5 mph lol, we’d hop outside and make a 24 or 48 hour continuous passage. This was a carefully considered decision, because we did not have self-steering nor did we have GPS. Night watches meant you stood in the cockpit, which was open to the elements, and with hands on the wheel for hours at a time, you steered, maintained course, and watched, peering into the gloomy dark. It was full hands-on.

Night passages are strange. You’re on the open ocean, but it’s busier than you’d think. You’re in a shipping lane, so often you’d see distant red or green navigation lights on another boat or a ship passing a mile or two away. There are whales below, who usually know not to breach up under the boat but you still hope they don’t. There could be a lost container that fell off a ship lurking just under the surface ready to sink you. This has actually happened to other mariners. A floating log or telephone pole ready to impale the boat and it goes down.

The ocean looks like a wide-open space but when you’re going along under sail at a full gallop over the bounding main into the dark, it’s disconcerting.

If you happen to be in a room you’re not familiar with and the lights go out, you grope your way around. You carefully place your feet, you wait for your eyes to adjust, you feel your way along the wall. You stagger and totter, unbalanced and unsure.

Do you stride confidently around in the dark? No, of course not.

But that is what the boat did, with us on it. And we never knew we were lost, blindly stumbling around this earth at the sufferance of our God who was angry with us every day. Our spiritual blindness was unknown to us and we strode around the earth as if we owned it, not even knowing we would fall into a pit.

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (Proverbs 4:19).

But if anyone walks at night, he will stumble, because he has no light. (John 11:10).

Yet,

If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. (John 11:9).

How refreshing it was to spot the lighthouse! When we saw that bright beam slicing through the dark, we were relieved. We knew we were about to be safe, the light had come.

How much MORE am I now safe, now relieved, that I have the eternal Light. His Light is in me as the Holy Spirit, and around me as  fellow believers, and before me as His statutes and ways. The Light is above me as my future destination in glory, and I will dwell in the Light forever.

The lost know (deep down) they are lost. The unsaved know (deep down) they are in the dark. The mysteries of the visible universe are present before them, as it was to me, yet we suppress that truth in unrighteousness. It’s heartbreaking to see the lost stride confidently around in their dark, the blind leading the blind, heading for a pit and ignoring our cries and pleas to do the one thing that will open their eyes:

Repent.

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15).

Then you once were blind, but now you see. I see the Light now, by His grace, and when my hand reaches out to grope my way, it is His hand that takes me, sustains me, guides me. I have HIS confidence, HIS light. In the darkness no more, my eternal life with Jesus rolls out before me as ocean billows, sparkling, luminous, radiant.

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