Reflections on riding out a storm
A few years ago, I was on a sailing boat with a few friends when we got caught up in the gale-force winds and driving rain of a storm.
I was thinking about this recently while praying about how to cope with the challenges of the current winter lockdown. While I was praying, I had the phrase ‘batten down the hatches’ in my head, and three reflections on what it’s like to sail in a storm occurred to me:
- ‘Battening down the hatches’ is about protecting the safe space inside the boat from the impacts of the storm. The hatch sits between the deck and cabin – it’s effectively the door between the two – and is normally left open. In a storm, it is firmly closed to prevent spray and rain entering the ship. It ensures a safe space within. For me, this is about the patterns and rhythms that I use to prevent the effects of the storm around me disturbing my inner peace (too much!). Sometimes it’s about really small decisions – going for a five-minute walk rather than reading the news for five minutes. Starting the day with a period of prayer or silence or contemplation. Ending the day with a time of reflection. These patterns will be different for each of us.
- In a storm you have to accept some deviations from your course. You don’t just bang away on your previous target, as this would often damage the boat. Your focus is on getting through the storm with everything intact, rather than getting a broken and battered ship to the destination on time. What does this mean for our plans and targets over the next few weeks? For me, ‘arriving intact’ means adjusting my plans so that I can get outside in daylight hours each day, and also taking regular exercise.
- Up until this point, I had been using the phrase ‘we’re just going to have to grind this out’ when referring to dealing with the effects of the lockdown. But on a boat you ride it out, you don’t grind it out. You get your wet weather gear on, you reduce the sail area and and you sit there, in the rain and spray, steering on the (storm-adjusted) course. I’ve found that a helpful shift in perspective.
So that’s where I’m at this time around… and there’s probably more to this analogy that I haven’t realised yet too. It’s quite different from the lockdown last Spring, where I was full of energy and busy investing in new projects… it feels like a different season to me now! I hope you find the analogy helpful too.