Listen for the Spirit
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.—Matthew 4:19–20 (rsv)
I am in the church I’d grown up in, sitting with Mom in the familiar pews. I look up to the vaulted arches with their wooden beams and the warm timber ceiling. That ceiling reminds me of Dad’s sailboat, the varnished planks stretched along the wooden ribs in the hull. All at once I’m a kid again, sitting on a canvas cushion next to my father. An orange life jacket rises up around my ears, and the salt spray spills over the bow.
Dad points to the trembling sail. “You see that?” he asks. “We call that luffing. It means we’re not taking full advantage of the wind. But look what happens if I pull in the mainsail.” He pulls the rope in his hand. “We’ve caught the wind again. Or if I push the tiller toward the sail it can have the same effect.”
“How do you know where the wind is coming from?” I ask. “You can feel it. Can’t you tell?” I rub the back of my neck and then point in that direction. “Good,”
Dad says. “Soon you’ll be able to sail on your own.”
It would be a couple of years before I handled the tiller by myself or held the mainsail in my hand, but Dad had given me his trust of wind and waves to go by.
Now Dad is gone, his boat a distant memory. But his lesson still reverberates in my soul. I know how to sail, looking for the wind, steering through the waves, keeping my hand on the tiller. And I know how to sit in church, listening for the spirit. That the place looks like a boat is no architectural accident. The church was meant to launch us all on a journey, one I am still on. “Doesn’t the ceiling remind you of Dad’s boat?” I ask Mom.
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