Sailing Lessons: Keels & Sails

During our recent sailing vacation, Jan and I tried to think of the different ways sailing illustrated the Christian life. Here are two more “sailing lessons” from our logbook.

Santa Teresa under sail in San Diego

I love getting in our dinghy and rowing away from our sailboat, Santa Teresa. I’m not trying to escape but to gain perspective. I love to look at her sitting at anchor. She has classic lines from her long, beautiful bowsprit to the sweet upturn of her transom. (The bowsprit is a twelve-foot spruce and mahogany laminated beam that sticks out of the bow of the boat to hold the foot of the foremost sail. Thanks to Paul Yarrington, George Riley and especially Tom Donnellan for rebuilding it last spring! The transom is the back of the boat.)

The surprising thing is what you don’t see. If you don’t count the masts that hold the sails up in the air, there is much more sailboat below the water than above! The seven-foot keel sticks down into the ocean and weighs over 9,000 pounds. It stretches from the bow to the stern and her purpose is to keep us sailing upright. When the winds howl and threaten to turn us upside down, the keel fights back and keeps us on course.

For a Christian, the Holy Spirit is the equivalent to a keel. Temptations and trials may threaten to turn us upside down but the Holy Spirit keeps us upright and on course. While the Spirit is quiet, lying there just below the surface, he gives stability to everything we do and helps us pass through every storm.

Back on board, we raise the anchor and hoist the sails. Just as the winds move us along, so the storms of life drive us but there is an interesting twist to this story. Have you watched the boats in the bay? The wind blows the same on all the boats but some sail left and some sail right. How can that be? The answer is the set of the sails.

Some people put their sails on a starboard tack and some choose a port tack but the wind is the same for everyone. Likewise, we all face challenges and trials. Some people are overwhelmed and some people thrive. What makes the difference? The set of your sails. What you choose to do with your trials will determine which way you will go. What you choose to do with Jesus will determine where you will spend eternity.

Jan popped up from the galley with a steaming bowl of soup, hot rolls with toasted cheese and a mug of coffee. “Are you preaching to my friends the dolphins again?” I shrugged sheepishly and we both broke out laughing.