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In a Fog

One of the rituals of spring is preparing my old 15’ sailboat after a winter in the backyard, to go into the Bay. Last week the weather was poor but the plans had been made and we pulled off the tarp, got out the hose and buckets and cleaned up The Rose for another season of sailing on Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth Bays. By noon time, the mast was stepped, the sail rigged and all was ready for launching in Snug Harbor.

The decision on whether or not to sail over to the mooring was carefully considered, for there was considerable fog on the Bay and the weather was unsettled. Mine is a small boat; the Bay is large and weather can change rapidly in the springtime. I have a compass on board, yet the thought of having to navigate to the mooring by instrument and under sail convinced me to fire up the small outboard motor and chug across the Bay hugging the shoreline.

I have read many metaphors about sailing and life, and one of them is about being fog-bound. The story goes like this: a fellow was sailing a small boat on a Bay and quickly and without warning, a fog rolled in. In a moment the sailor was disoriented and had no idea of the direction of the shoreline. There was no choice; he had to drop anchor and wait. Anxiously he lowered his sails and threw out his anchor. All was still. He was helpless and did not know what to do.

How many times can something similar happen in our own lives? At one moment we seem to have everything under control, a clear direction and are making good progress. All of a sudden, something happens: maybe an accident, illness, a death or a change in one’s circumstances. Suddenly one feels lost and uncertain of the direction of life. Things do not make sense anymore – everything has changed. It is like we are in a fog and don’t know the way to shore and safety. What to do?

Actually the sailor’s response is the only correct one: stop. Drop anchor and wait. When that happens, something unexpected often occurs. After the anxiety and uncertainty of the moment passes, we might just find ourselves using all of our other senses, hearing, touch, smell and taste to learn something of our situation: sounds from shore or other vessels, the feel of a breeze and the smell may help one know the direction of it…
Such moments can also bring us an awareness of the closeness of God. Our God is always close to us and especially when we feel lost and broken, anxious and uncertain. Actually such moments can best be seen as invitations for us to deliberately turn to God, placing our fog-bound life into God’s hands with total confidence. In fact, the more we trust that God will see us through a trial, the more the challenge of the moment eases. All in all, sometimes being fog-bound can be a good thing!

Fr. Ronan