At Sea

I feel just like a sailboat,
Don’t know where I’m headed.
But you can’t make the wind blow
From a sailboat.
I have seen the sun,
Felt the rain on my skin.
I’ve been lost and found,
But mostly I’ve been waiting.

Oh, I’m out in the waves
And I’m hoping and praying,
Please let this wind blow me home.
Night after night
There’s an empty horizon,
My God do I feel so alone.
But sometimes life
And most times I
Feel just like a sailboat.

And I’m pretty sure I’m heard,
At least I know I’m speaking,
But I feel like a fool
‘Cause I can’t hear you listening.
But I’m not giving up,
Oh, I’m gonna move on forward.
I’m gonna raise my sail,
God knows what I’m headed towards.

Oh I’m out in the waves
And I’m hoping and praying,
Please let this wind blow me home.
And night after night
There’s an empty horizon,
My God do I feel so alone.
Sometimes life
And most times I
Feel just like a sailboat.

The only change I see
Lost or found at sea,
The only difference
Is believing I’ll make it in.

Oh I’m out in the waves
And I’m hoping and praying,
Please let this wind blow me home.
And night after night
There’s an empty horizon,
My God do I feel so alone.
Sometimes life
And most times I
Feel just like a sailboat.

When I was sixteen, I knew everything.

I had it all figured out.  I knew what I was good at, what I enjoyed, what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I knew where my values and morals came from, and they were clear, black and white, unadulterated with experience or common sense.  I was loyal, faithful, trusting as only a child could be.  At the time, I wouldn’t have described myself as a child, and I suppose to do so now would be inaccurate; but I was so young.  Maybe a child doesn’t have the capacity to trust as I did then; maybe it requires a certain knowledge of the world, a certain intimacy with real pain and at least a tiny taste of real love in order to really, truly believe.  For me, it was belief in God, but it didn’t have to be; building the foundation of one’s personality on anything, whether it be religion or something else, requires a faith deeper than the intellect can devise.  A child can’t have that kind of faith.  That kind of faith requires the test of real life, and requires that through the howling of the winds and the rain, its grip remains strong, firm, planted in soil so deep that no storm could uproot it.

I had that faith at sixteen, and the path before me was plain.  When I was sixteen, being smart meant straight A’s; having a plan for my future meant finding a college and deciding on a major; and success meant graduating from high school with honors and winning soccer games.  I was everything I was supposed to be, and “faithful, church-going girl” fell into those requirements.  I placed my ambitions ahead of boys, my dreams and goals ahead of any fear of the unknown.  It was what I was supposed to do, and I did it.  I did it well.

And then . . . I left home.  I left my beautiful church, with its wonderful youth program and dynamic pastor whose sermons still challenge and inspire me.  I left my perfect little bubble, nestled in the suburbs of Kansas City in one of the wealthiest areas of the country, where all the houses look the same and chain restaurants dot the main roads and parents buy their children BMW’s as soon as they can see over the steering wheel.  I found myself in a new world, where not everyone was a Christian and people said curse words and couldn’t depend on their parents to supplement their meager Air Force Academy stipend.  I met a boy and friends who asked good questions, questions I couldn’t answer with the cookie cutter knowledge I gained in my cookie cutter childhood.  My faith that I thought could withstand a hurricane succumbed to a light mountain breeze.

I could have searched for answers, and part of me wanted to.  But I wasn’t sixteen anymore; God felt further and further away and became less and less convenient as I filled my days with studying and flying and, of course, a boy.  What I wanted from life just a few years before – go to college, play soccer, get into medical school, and serve God and my country as an Air Force doctor – felt like someone else’s dream, someone much different from myself, now an independent, self-sufficient, critical thinker who had outgrown childish notions of religion and love and home.

I ran away from that girl, the sixteen-year-old version of myself with faith that could stamp out the darkest of days.  I ran from security, ran from stability, ran from the idea that I could ever be happy.  I couldn’t understand a God who would reject a person just because he couldn’t reconcile illogical religious beliefs with the world he saw, and instead of asking, instead of seeking, I in turn rejected God.  I ignored the things I had felt God pulling me towards as a child, and I ignored the parts of life that gave me real joy; instead I chased the desires of someone analytical and detached, a rebellious child stubbornly refusing gestures of kindness and acceptance from an eternally merciful parent.  I convinced myself of my desire to be alone, of my longing to travel and never settle in one place, of my satisfaction with a life full of introspection and devoid of meaningful human connection.

And I hated it.

Every night brought tears, every day a numbness and resignation, a feeling that this life, despite its lack of happiness and the lingering emptiness, was the life I was meant to live.  I shut out the idea that my life could be like everyone else’s, that happiness and fulfillment were not mutually exclusive.  I thought I had to want this life of perpetual sacrifice, and not even sacrifice with an admirable or beautiful end goal, but futile sacrifice, benefiting no one, especially not myself.  A desire for this life was the only thing that fit a life with him, that boy that asked all the right – and wrong – questions.  I had to be stoic, independent, needing nothing but my own thoughts to really live out my purpose.

But I couldn’t.  As hard as I tried, as much of myself as I gave to this new idea of what my life should be, I couldn’t want the things I thought I was supposed to want.  And finally, I gave up, gave in, quit wanting them.

Slowly, slowly, God drew me back to him.  I fought, I refused, I twisted his words and ignored his touch.  Even as I knew that the life of my twenty-two-year-old self was not the one I wanted, still I found so much of my sixteen-year-old self to be inconvenient and illogical.  For all the ways that I was wrong in college, I had still learned, still gained perspective that had never occurred to me during my sheltered upbringing.  I allowed God to pull me back into his embrace; I even breathed easier, as if I had been holding my breath for seven years and finally exhaled and in that sigh felt everything I had held in, everything I had warped inside of me and everything I hated within my own soul escape and float away . . .

But I’ll never be sixteen again.  Those years introduced gray into my color spectrum, and blue and green and every other tint that prevented my world from falling neatly between black and white dividing lines.  As much as I seek to serve God, I will never be so unconditionally trusting and unquestioning as I was a decade ago.  There are things I want, places I want to live and goals I want to realize, a shape I long for my life to take that I fully acknowledge might not be the same as God’s plan for me.  In my rebellion, I had complete control; I and I alone was at the helm, steering without need for the wind, for any direction outside of my own whims.  And it was so lonely.  I was lost, steering towards nothing, muscling my little boat through the winds and the rains, and for what?  For me, and my life, with its smallness and finite existence?  For someone else, who fascinated and enraptured me but could never make me happy?

I relinquished that control when I crawled back to God, slinking on scraped palms and bloody knees, hoping he would forget my disheveled hair and tear-stained face, hoping he would forget the way I hijacked the boat he had trusted to me and made a mess of such beautiful opportunities.  I gave up my journey and traded it for his safety.   It was joyful, and freeing, both of which God promises.  But it wasn’t, and isn’t, easy . . . and God sent me back to the boat, to his boat, this time with no emergency engine and no access to the helm.

My life isn’t over.  There are still miles to go, a million stars to pass under before the end, but I don’t know which stars and I don’t know where exactly that end lies.  I’m at the mercy of the wind, wind that comes from God’s very breath and wind that I want to trust wholly and completely, wind that I know I can’t control.  Yet here I sit, in my sailboat, thinking that maybe one day God will show me where I’m going, many days longing for the control I used to feel and wondering if maybe I could blow hard enough to send my craft in my chosen direction, or more quickly in God’s, some days even trying to do so, and upon reaching the end of those days finding myself out of breath and still just floating. . . only God knows what I’m headed towards.

I do believe he knows.  I do believe that God has a home in mind for me, that his intent for me is not to continue floating, turning circles under the same stars.  Some periods in my life have been so definite, with such a clear direction and, in retrospect, such clear lessons.  When I was sixteen, God held me in his hand and I looked eagerly forward to his plans for me, plans I could see and feel and touch; in college, I wandered aimlessly and hopelessly, always searching but never in the right place.  Now, God holds me again . . . but I can’t see his plans.  I find myself waiting, constantly asking, praying, begging, on my knees and sometimes shouting but usually whispering, hands folded and eyes skyward, listening for his voice, for that wind that will finally push me home.  I think he hears me.  My friends tell me he does.  His word tells me he does.  I believe it, even when I stop whispering and just try to feel kiss of his breath, even the slightest breeze, and there is nothing – even at these times, I think it is my failure for not hearing him, and not his silence.  So I’ll keep trusting.  I’ll keep hoping, and when I feel the wind come, no matter how long it takes, and whether or not it’s from the direction I expect, I will raise my sail, heave it skyward and watch it catch the wind and feel the boat jolt beneath me.

I have been many things in my life.  Happy, sad, content, restless, hopeful, terrified, loved, abandoned . . . I was found, lost, and found again.  The difference was never security or certainty in the direction of my journey.  The difference is, and has always been, the belief that someday – tomorrow or next month or ten years from now – God will blow me home.

One response to “At Sea

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s