He Sets the Course

“The Journey,” ©Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

In the late 1990s, Pan captivated my household. Peter Pan. My son loved to imagine himself defeating the dastardly Captain Hook; I imagined what it must be like to fly.

Pixie Dust apparently works miracles. And in fact, with the addition of a little of that dust, Disney gave us the best of all worlds… a flying, pirate ship.

It was no Spruce Goose, but apparently it worked.

Actually, ships have always fascinated me. Perhaps, it’s in the DNA. My father, an oceanographer, loved the old square riggers. The walls of our home, his office, mugs and even a coffee table sported images of ocean faring clippers.

Thus, when my son acquired an interest in defeating pirates, it came as no surprise. His 3rd Birthday party revolved around a pirate theme and scavenger hunt.

However, I suspect that most moms will understand when I say that I was greatly relieved that my son’s turn of mind led him to emulate Peter’s heroic actions rather than Hook’s vengeful pursuits.

captain-of-the-journey-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studiosShips obviously can be used for good or for ill. Depends on who mans the wheel.

Obviously, there is a striking contrast between a captain of the Royal Navy and the pirate who goes rogue.

Yet, I have to ask, “Where did the pirate learn to sail?”

Maybe, he was once a good guy, and just got caught up in a mutiny. Perhaps, he simply failed to trust his captain.

Whatever the case, pirates took law and life into their own hands. They did things their own way.

A pirate certainly sought his fortune outside of the king’s protection.

Uh, huh.

It’s that old “end justifies the means” thinking. And “Let’s make this happen…now.”

No patient perseverance to be found.

But here’s the embarrassing part: I’ve been known at times to lose patience and go my own way.

There, I’ve said it.

When the King’s itinerary doesn’t make human sense to me, I sometimes follow my own gameplan…and predictably, I find myself in deep waters without an anchor for my soul.

It happens. Even to those better than I.

Of course, such detours don’t represent Abba’s best for me. Nevertheless, I strive. I try to work my life and dreams out on my own.

I wrestle with the sails. I fight the wind. I pursue the big catch.

“I do it myself,” cries the spiritual toddler in me.

After all, I can’t see that my Captain has a particular plan. Or if He does, I unfortunately fail to trust.

My thinking is unfortunately finite and I take my eyes off the Infinite one.

So I substitute my own agenda. I decide that I can find a way to achieve the end goal. I go rogue.

Not smart.

But then, I’ve never claimed to be a genius. That was Dad’s department. I’m just his sometimes roguish kid.

And my solo voyages on the open sea have admittedly been rather harrowing. I know this. Yet, I find it difficult to obey my heavenly Father’s command to “Cease striving, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10a).

Let’s face it. Sometimes, it’s tough to let go of that captain’s wheel, and allow our King to determine the course.

Indeed, allowing God to steer the course seems to unsettle humanity as a whole.

We struggle.

Sometimes, we resist.

Some refuse outright.

Pirates roam the sea.

Wait on God? Why bother when we believe we can do it on our own?

We set sail, determined to make our dreams happen.

Going rogue. It’s the history of the human race.

And yes, the Old Testament records the varied stories of saints who “went rogue,” attempting to work life out on their own.

Honestly? I’ve been there; done that.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve made my life verse Proverbs 3:5. Being a child of God does immunize me against the allure of self-rule. The enemy still attempts to draw me away from Abba.

It’s an ongoing spiritual battle.

That’s why Abba’s account of those who have gone before us encourages me.

This past week, I reread Scripture’s description of Jacob’s life. And I immediately noted that Jacob also struggled with trust.

He was a “can-do” kinda guy. Competitive by his very nature. Ambition drove Jacob from the moment he entered the world. Sibling rivalry began with his first breath.

Although Esau came out of the womb first, Jacob grabbed hold of Esau’s heel. Jake evidently was a scrappy little fellow.

But Rebekah wasn’t concerned. God had given her an unusual promise. Although Middle-Eastern culture gave first-born sons precedence, Yahweh told Rebekah that the elder would serve the younger.

And when God promises something, it’s a sure thing.

Indeed, God had big plans for Jake. But faith flowed both hot and cold in Isaac’s household. For this reason, there would be some stormy seas in Jacob’s life.

Like Jake’s Grandfather Abraham, Isaac frequently took matters into his own hands. He, too, lied about his wife. “She is my sister,” Isaac said (Genesis 26:7).

Feared the king of the Philistines, Isaac–who had once trusted Yahweh to provide the sacrifice as well as to supply a bride– faltered in his faith.

I suspect that Isaac’s faith had already been deteriorating for some time. Doubts about Yahweh’s ability or willingness to both protect and bless him had obviously taken root.

That’s how it goes. No one just goes rogue overnight. Seeds of doubt sprout long before the mutiny.

His family relationships certainly suggest that his faith had grown lukewarm. Favoritism led Isaac to circumvent God’s plan.

Although God had made Rebekah a promise, Esau was nevertheless Isaac’s favorite. Rebekah, however, favored Jake.

Tension ruled just beneath the surface.

It all came to a crisis point as Isaac neared death. He longed to bless his oldest son. Although there is nothing wrong with wanting the best of our children, Isaac selfishly wished to give to Esau what God had promised to Jacob.

When Isaac grew old and lost his sight, he decided to do things his way. He called for Esau and asked his favorite to hunt game for a meal. Then, he promised to bless Esau after the meal.

Little did the scheming father know, but his wife overheard his plan. I imagine she was outraged. Isaac intended to bless Esau, to make Esau the head of the household both practically and spiritually.

Yet, God had promised her that Jacob would lead. She may have grumbled to herself, “How many times have I told that man about what God said? But he never listens to me.”

Her own hopes for Jacob did not mix well with her husband’s scheme on Esau’s behalf.

She stepped into the fray. Perhaps, she espoused a Hebrew version of “God helps those who help themselves.” She certainly wanted Jake to receive his rightful piece of the pie.

God had promised. “Never mind how Jacob gets there,” Rebekah likely thought. The place of prominence belonged to him.

She believed herself in the right.

But it’s clear that her faith failed in the heat of the moment. Isaac could not be trusted. And God?captain-of-the-journey-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studios

Well, she obviously thought Yahweh needed a little help.

Things have a way of backfiring when you or I go our own way. James warns, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing,” (James 3:16).

That’s why Paul admonished us, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit…” (Philippians 2:3a).

Even if we seek what God has promised, we risk shipwreck when we ignore God’s itinerary, and chart our own course.

On the surface, Rebekah’s plan worked. She dressed Jacob in Esau’s clothing and added a few animal skins to safeguard the deception. Esau, you see, was a hairy man.

She provided Jacob with stew and a deceitful script. And Isaac gave the blessing to Jacob.

Understandably, Esau was furious. He privately vowed to kill Jacob once Isaac died.

Perhaps, a servant warned Rebekah. Scripture doesn’t give all the details.

But we do know that Rebekah takes charge again. She suggests to Isaac that Jacob should be sent to her brother Laban’s family in order to find a bride.

I’m sure her heart nearly broke as she said goodbye to her favorite son. But she hoped that Esau’s anger would blow over quickly; she tells Jacob that he is to stay with his uncle for a few days. Then, she will send for him, (Genesis 27:44-45).

Sadly, unbridled human ambition had created a horrendous mess.

I find that’s usually the case.

When I follow my own understanding instead of waiting on for Abba to work out His plan in His way and time, my life swirls with turmoil.

Things did not blow over quickly. In fact, Rebekah died without ever seeing her beloved son again.

And Jake? Well, it turned out his Uncle Laban played “chess” very well. He deceived and manipulated Jake in much the same way as Jake had deceived Isaac, (see Genesis 29-30).

Of course, if the story ended there, it would be a tale of ongoing deceit, disorder and tragedy.

But God is so much bigger than our faith failures. He will bring about His plan despite our detours.

David wrote, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems you life from the pit; who crowns you with loving-kindness and compassion…” (Psalm 103:2-4).

Even when I strive…

Even when I grab the captain’s wheel and attempt to steer the ship myself…

Although I likely will sail into captain-of-the-journey-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studiosrough waters, God will ultimately send the wind and waves to direct me back to Him.

Grace pursues you and me.

As it did Jacob. During his stay with Uncle Laban, he came to know God as his God… not simply the God of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham. Then, when God told Jacob to return home, he obeyed.

This time, he sailed under the flag of his Sovereign God.

Sure, Jacob still wrestled for control. On the way home, fear filled his heart. Would Esau ambush him?

Anticipating a tense family reunion, Jake wrestled with God.

It isn’t easy to let go of self-rule. Faith is an extraordinary step.

But Jacob had learned much. He looked to Abba for direction and blessing.

And that made all the difference.

As Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Abba longs to bless you and me. It’s just that I often get distracted by the turmoil around me.

I fear that others will subvert Abba’s plans for me. My faith in our all-powerful God falters.

Jacob’s history reveals what I frequently forget: God’s plans for His children cannot be thwarted.

You and I do not need to strive, to fight or selfishly compete for God’s best in our lives.

He loves you and me, and has promised “plans for welfare and not calamity; a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).

He is faithful and able to accomplish that hope.

And without a doubt, I am miserable when I follow my own misguided understanding.

For this reason, I will choose to sail under the King’s banner. Abba will accomplish His best in my life. Indeed, you and I can avoid a whole lotta turmoil by following Him.

And when our ship comes in, it will be filled with blessings beyond all that we could ask or imagine.

In fact, Abba’s treasure bests every other.

After all, our heavenly Father loves us beyond measure.

He has planned for our good all along.

You and I only need to wait on Him, and to watch the horizon with eyes of faith.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly,” Psalm 84:11