Captain What-If and the Bosun's Chair
I can see all the way across the island and miles out to sea, but I'm too terrified to appreciate the view. I was nervous but functioning on the way up, but when I reached the top of the mast, something in my bosun's chair settled and it dropped me suddenly about one inch. In that one inch of movement, I had time to convince myself that the rope had broken and I was on my way down to the deck 54 feet below where poor Amy would watch me die right in front of her. Now I'm paralyzed with fear.
"What's wrong? Why aren't you changing the bulb?" Amy calls from below after a couple minutes of inactivity.
I can't move or speak. I'm certain any action on my part will mean certain death. About 30 seconds pass and Amy calls up again, "Do you want me to let you back down?"
"No!" I shout down, glad to have retrieved my voice. "Just give me a minute here" I add, speaking more to myself than to Amy.
I begin an internal diatribe: "Russ, you have to do this. Mast climbing is going to be part of life now and there's no way around it. The rope supporting you would hold three men your size, and you triple checked your knots. Your bosun's chair is rated for 310 pounds and you're 100 pounds less than that. Even if it fails, you have your safety harness. My safety harness! I haven't even attached my safety harness yet! Get a grip man!"
Slowly and carefully I run my harness around the mast and clip myself in. "There you go, you got this" I say aloud, prodding myself along. I take a deep breath, then another, before asking Jesus to give me courage and keep me safe.
Slowly, deliberately, I reach up and unscrew the top of the mast light. Gaining confidence now, I use both hands for the work instead of always clutching the mast with one. I remove the lens and stick it in my pouch, retrieve the new bulb from my shirt pocket, replace the bad one with it, and reassemble everything.
Feeling pretty good about myself, I decide to take a minute to inspect the halyard pulleys before heading down. They look good. One more look across the island, appreciating the beauty of it this time, and I unclip the harness and call out to Amy to slowly lower me down.
Using the halyard winch, she eases me down until my feet finally touch the deck. I breathe a sigh of relief and bask in the satisfaction that can only come from overcoming one's fear.
I really do trust God. Deep in my soul, I know that because I love Him and have been called according to His purpose, that He will work all things for my good (Rom 8:28). Even when it doesn't look good from my limited view, and even when it doesn't feel good to my human heart, I know it's true. God is for me and He's in control. And it's because of this strongly held belief that I am perplexed and even a bit ashamed by a profound lack of peace the past couple weeks.
Life is by nature full of uncertainty, but lately I have been feeling overwhelmed by it. I really, really don't want this post to be about the Corona virus, but I guess if I'm honest, I have to admit that at least part of the reason for all the uncertainty is this awful plague. Or more accurately, the effect it will have on our plans to be living on a sailing vessel by the end of the year. As much as I don't want to be another voice whining about COVID 19, I guess the truth is, right now, there is no discussing future plans without factoring in the what-ifs created by the current public health crisis.
So far, Amy and I have been financially unaffected by current events. How long will that continue to be the case? I don't know. How much of a hit can we take to our income and still be gone this year? Only a small one. Will the government restrict our movements and interactions even further in the days ahead so that we can't even go look at boats to purchase? Seems like a strong possibility. Will everyone close their borders so there's nowhere to sail to anyway? That too, seems quite possible. How long will it all last? No one knows .
We've accepted an offer on our house. Which of course really is great news, but it's also brought on a whole other set of uncertainties. The deal itself feels like it's hanging on by a thread. We've conceded every penny we could to keep it on track, and I think at this point it's probably going to happen, but it's far from over. We need to sell or donate everything in the house before the May 1 closing date, and I'm afraid we'll get rid of everything, the deal will fall through or get postponed due to the virus, and we'll be stuck living in a house with nothing in it.
In Seattle, the situation with my parents, while not good, had settled into something manageable, but has now in the last few days suddenly become a full blown crisis again. Amy and I are actually supposed to be there right now, but for obvious reasons, had to cancel the trip. My mom's mind is fading fast. Will she even know who I am by the time we can travel there to see her?
A good friend who I've been mentoring, and who has been clean for a long time, has fallen back into drug use. When you run a recovery ministry, you have to know that those are the kinds of heart breaks you're signing up for, but it never gets any easier. Will he get back on track before he loses his job? His family? His life?
Then there's Griffin. My sweet puppy has never been in good health. He'll only be 8 years old this month, but he's been epileptic since he was one, and had Lyme disease since he was three. In the last six weeks, he has really taken a turn for the worse. Arthritis set into his back legs so quickly, that at first I thought he had been injured. Every step is now taken
in pain and I'm having trouble envisioning him being comfortable on a sailboat in this condition. But neither can I envision leaving him behind feeling abandoned and betrayed. If he continues to decline, the hard decision to put him down may have to be made. I don't want to rush into that decision too quickly, but I don't want to be faced with it in a third world island country or on a boat at sea either. Tough decisions and uncertainty are at every turn.
If the worst case scenario came to pass in each of the above situations, I could handle it. I could readjust my sights. I could remain thankful for the countless blessings in my life. I could tell myself that God is shaping me and molding me and it will be for the best in the end, and I would believe it. I'm just struggling with the uncertainty...with so many things being up in the air at once. All of them jeopardizing our grand plan to sail away.
Perhaps that's the real issue. The plan has become too important. Maybe I have done exactly what I said I would need to guard against doing since my fourth blog post: I have put my plans and my timing ahead of the Lord's purposes. Proverbs 19:21 says: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Somewhere in the flurry of activity needed to make our sail away happen, I have forgotten this truth. The price I have paid for forgetting is a lack of peace.
I've always felt like busyness was the biggest robber of peace in my life, but it turns out that simply isn't true. Here I am in the least busy season of my life in at least a decade, with less peace than I've had in that same period of time. It turns out that forgetting what I claim to know, that God is in control and He's for me; that is the thief.
So now, being reminded of a known truth forgotten, what changes? Not the circumstances. Not the uncertainties. Not the virus. Not my parents, or my friend, or even Griffin. No, the only thing that changes is what God always wants to change: my heart! I can now see the foolishness of needing to have questions answered before I'm willing to claim the peace that Jesus promises. I recognize that uncertainties are not an excuse for fear. Not even when there's a lot of them!
Rather than worrying about our sail away savings dwindling if we take a financial hit, I can be thankful that because of that savings, we'll be OK for a while even if Amy and I both find ourselves out of work.
I can rest assured that if we're not on our way to building relationships and sharing the gospel in the Caribbean by the end of the year, then God must have something better in mind for us. Even if we don't recognize it as better right away.
I can love my mom when I see her whether she remembers me or not. I can appreciate that my friend has the tools of victory when and if he decides to use them. I can truly enjoy my wonderful dog, not needing to know when or how his end will come.
I can continue to move forward through the steps required to bring about our plan, hoping and praying that the Lord will bring it to fruition, without it being a prerequisite to my peace.
When I sat down to write this, I had nothing in particular in mind to share with you. I only knew it had been a while since I'd written and that surely some of you would be waiting for an update on how things were going. Instead you were subjected to a glimpse inside of a weak, sinful man doing his best to lead a life of faith. You witnessed God dealing with a man's heart through the writing of a blog post. I hope that's not a disappointment to you, but if it is, maybe an actual update will help. If you keep up with our Facebook page, some of this will not be news to you, but not everyone is on Facebook (i.e. the smart people), so here it is:
February 15: All of my woodworking tools found a new home. I got a fair price for them and I know they will be put to good use by the man who bought them.
February 28: We had a big sale at the house to unload some more of our possessions. The original goal was to make $1000; we cleared $1600.
March 13: We closed on our 2nd house (the one we didn't live in). The folks that were living in it bought it, and it was a problem-free, cash deal.
March 20: We accepted a verbal offer on our primary home. The 2 weeks since have been paperwork, inspections, and re-negotiations. A termite inspection is the last hurdle, and I have no real concerns about that, so hopefully, we're in the home stretch now.
April: Frantically trying to sell or donate virtually all of our remaining worldly possessions, pack the few things we're keeping, cancelling utilities, forwarding mail, and everything else one must do when they move.
April 30: Vacate 606 N. 11th Street. We have loved living here. It will be difficult to leave. We are relocating to a large furnished apartment for the rest of our time here in Monmouth.
May 1: Close on primary house.
May 29-June 5: I will be in Florida taking three ASA sailing courses and hopefully finding time to look at some boats for our consideration.
June-Aug: Find and purchase Born Again!
August ?: Bon Voyage Party/Fundraiser
September 11: Last day of work at the Y. This will be a tough day for me.
September 14: I will leave town and head to wherever the boat is. It's time to start getting her outfitted for the voyage.
Sometime in the following 2 to 6 weeks: Amy will join me at the boat.
Of course this update comes with my usual disclaimer (now more than ever) that this is all subject to change.
Thanks for reading and sharing in the adventure with us. We appreciate the prayers and words of encouragement. And as always, we appreciate your likes, shares, and comments.
Wishing you all fair winds and following seas as you sail through life in 2020.