The other night I was in rowing in the dark. (Well that's not strictly true, it was actually my turn to coxwain, which is amusing for the girls powering the boat, as I am meant to be the one supplying the inspirational instructions, but the requirement for me to give these commands in Dutch, probably causes more stomach-creased amusement than abdominal sturdiness and focus.) Fortunately for us all, there were several prolonged moments of silence, with only the occasional gentle splashing of the river over their oars, disturbing the eerie peace. Gliding unhurriedly through the waters which rippled apart for our boat like melted chocolate in the dim light of the moon, I was reminded of a dream I had two years ago on a distant part of the planet. The dream that is, was dreamt in Australia, but I confess I have no clue which ocean was its scenery.
In the dream I was sitting on the front of a small and humble yacht, surrounded by vast and unending sea. I remember a tension of emotions: the threat of being overwhelmed by agoraphobic awareness at the colossal waters, but at the same time a sort of awe at the majestic seas trickling over the horizon. I was sitting with my feet dangling over the front of the boat as it sailed slowly towards the ever-moving edges of the sea. I had no idea where I was going and whether I would ever get there. The water was an eternity spreading out before me, but I became completely calm because my toes weren't just dipping impersonally into the plethora of sea, but were stretched out to touch the tips of a tail rising up from an enormous shadow beneath the surface. Swimming bucolically before the boat was a beautiful blue whale. I can vividly call to mind at will how I then felt looking ahead at an oceany abyss; would-be-terror subdued by my not being quite alone. The whale’s flight was gentle yet purposeful; my feeling of meaningless abased by the communication of my little podgey toes with this mighty creature of calm and harmonious navigation. I didn't need to know where I was or where I was going. I felt peaceful in the midst of an otherwise uncomforting infinity.
A while after having this dream, unable to escape its impressing image, I asked God what it might mean. I felt him interpret it for me. He was my shepherd in the deep. So often I worry about what's behind me, (the unhelpful 'what ifs' of my past) I worry about what's beside me (the pressures, stresses and demands of the present) and I worry about what's ahead of me (the future: am I heading towards my destiny? Will I make the right choices? Have I already scuffed up Plan A for my life? Am I fulfilling my potential? What does my life even mean? What is the point? Will I make it to the end?). But as I consulted my heavenly dad, I felt assurance wash over me as I realised that the magnificent whale in the dream had been him with me. He was guiding me through the troubling waters of life. And because he was there, they were still. It didn't matter that I was a million miles from eternity's shore, because I was safe and God not only knew exactly where I was with all that surrounded me then, but he also knew exactly where I’d come from, and what’s more he knew where we were headed to and was leading the way. The huge mammal wasn't hurried or flustered, like me as the cox. There was no one or nothing to disturb our tranquil sojourn.
I felt reminded too that in the absence of the spectacular (in the dream there were wasn’t a storm, a fight with pirates, a shark attack, riding on dolphins, conversing with mermen, or anything else that might have been characteristic of a sea-orientated remarkable dream – it was just me in the boat and the whale on a journey), God still goes ahead of me. One day I will look back or maybe I’ll catch a bird’s eye view (that’d be cool) and I’ll see the pathway, like wet tracks across the sea that my life has forged, but I don’t need to worry about what direction those tracks will spread into, nor force them into being. Jesus comforts me saying: Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34) As I silently coxed in the dark, I experienced a baptism of peace, even though the flurry of my next frustrated Dutch command was soon due. I still don't completely fit in here and I still don't quite get why God wants me here, neither can I imagine what I will look back on in years to come, but because I am following the whale - the beautiful beast before me, I will not be fearful, even though there's 'water, water, everywhere'.
I don’t quite know whether the season I’m in at the moment fits neatly into my ‘high’ or a ‘low’ category among those moments in my life which I can easily compartmentalise, but I do know that I am excited to see what’s next. I love the adventure of following God. Sometimes he asks some pretty scary stuff of me and I have no idea how I can possibly make such decisions for him, without life changing radically. But I’ll take the risk of radical changes because I do not want my life to be like an idle ship on a painted ocean – I want the dynamism that comes from following, even when it hurts and my trust seems blind. Next time I will tell you about one of the most difficult decisions I ever made, which I guess in hindsight was a little bit like rowing in the dark.