‘Stop the world, I want to get off!’ A number of years ago, my husband and I did the next best thing to stepping off the world; we bought a sailboat and ran away to sea. What began as a two-year plan evolved into twelve amazing years afloat. While we frequently enjoyed superb sailing conditions, we occasionally faced tricky and challenging conditions and endured stormy weather. Our adventures were sometimes scary, often exhilarating and always utterly compelling.
But, of course, life ashore isn’t without its own challenges and last year was a particularly tumultuous time for us. We enjoyed plenty of good times and they were truly delightful but there were storms too – both literally and figuratively.
Two category 5 hurricanes within a month wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. We had spent several years cruising these lovely islands and the devastation was heart-breaking on so many levels. There was loss of life, terrible destruction and on-going distress for a great number of people including several dear friends who live there.
Closer to home, the storms centred around chronic health problems among family and close friends and the sudden, serious illness of my much-loved brother-in-law. And, outwith the family, in the hurly-burly of human relationships, there was dissent, distress and profound disappointment.
The year came to a close with low-key, peaceful seasonal celebrations but, even so, I was found myself feeling rather storm-tossed by all the ups and downs. Running away to sea seemed a very appealing, if unworkable, option!
So I decided to take time out and withdraw from everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary; social events, social media, projects, and interests. And thus began a month of prayer, meditation and quiet reflection.
As a task-driven creature of habit, I found the disruption to my routines quite disorientating at first and even unsettling. I didn’t feel as if I was actually DOING anything. It’s hard to see waiting as a proactive response but I learned that, when we wait for God, it’s actually a very powerful thing.
‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’ (Psalm 27:14)
In fact, the whole process proved to be cathartic, healing and ultimately uplifting. I’m not sure when or how God’s peace seeped into my troubled heart. Just that it did. It came like sunrise on the ocean, slowly but inexorably. First, a small hint of grey on the dark horizon, then a tiny sliver of light which blossomed from red through pink to gold and finally, at last, the glorious dawn bringing with it a new day filled with promise and joyful anticipation.
We often hear that prayer changes things and it certainly does. I also believe that prayer changes us. As we spend time waiting FOR God and waiting WITH God, He quiets us by His love. (Zephaniah 3:17)
• Do my loved ones still face health challenges? Yes, but we’re facing them together in God’s strength.
• Have fractured relations healed? No, or at least not yet, but I live in prayerful hope and expectation.
Quiet time alone with God on a daily basis is an absolute must for any Christian and, indeed, Jesus set the example. ‘He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.’ (Luke 5:16)
And now I’ve learned the additional benefits of slipping away and taking significant time out to allow God to refresh my soul. ‘I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.’ (Jeremiah 31:25)
As I metaphorically step back on to the world, I bring with me some amazing life lessons, new priorities and a quiet and peaceful heart. And this is all God’s work.
‘They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31)