“Wanna know what this bucket is for?” the seasoned sailor asked, throwing a pointed glance in my direction.
He was taking us out in his sailboat on Lake Michigan, and I was the only one in the group who had never been sailing before. Apparently he was afraid I’d be green in more ways than one.
I did my best to laugh, desperately hoping I wouldn’t need the bucket.
Then it was the sailor’s turn to laugh. “Oh, this bucket isn’t for you—it’s to clean up the deck afterward!”
On the way to the boat, we were regaled with sailing stories—about the time his boat flipped over in gale-force winds, the time the fog was so dense he couldn’t find his way back to the dock, the time he was several miles from land in the middle of a lightning storm. I was feeling queasy already, and we hadn’t even set foot onboard.
I tried to prep myself for every possible scenario. But when we finally got out onto the water, we encountered the one situation I hadn’t envisioned: everything was utterly still. I held my face up to the sky but couldn’t detect so much as a hint of a breeze.
There we were, sitting in the middle of the huge lake—normally filled with cresting whitecaps but on that day looking as smooth as glass. The sails hung limp and lifeless above us.
The sailboat boasted every possible gadget you could imagine—a GPS that told you exactly where you were in relation to your destination, a gauge that read the temperate both in the air and in the water, a sensory device that detected the depth of the water and how many fish were camping out beneath the surface. But none of it mattered if we couldn’t leave the shoreline. We had no manmade gadget that could perform the function of the wind. (Although my husband, funny guy that he is, tired his best to fill his lungs and blow on the sails in an attempt to create some action.)
It turned out to be a lovely, if anticlimactic, afternoon on the water. But as we basked in the sun and ate a picnic lunch on the idle boat, it got me to thinking about the Holy Spirit, of all things.
The Bible often uses wind as a metaphor to describe the way God works. Like the wind, a tiny puff of his breath has power to set us in motion, to move us forward, to change our course. We may not be able to see him, but there’s no denying it when we’re in the wake of what he’s doing.
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind . . . so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
Our boat outing revealed a nautical and spiritual truth: if God’s Spirit isn’t breathing power into a venture, no amount of huffing and puffing on my part will make it move.
The breath of God isn’t something we can control. But we can be ready for it—we can embrace it when it comes. His breath is a gift of movement, a gift of direction, a gift of power. Ultimately, it is the breath of grace.