“You can tell a lot about a ship as you look at its wake. If it is in a straight line, you get the feeling that the boat is steadily on course and that the captain is not dozing at the wheel…. if it is smooth and flat you know something about the speed of the boat. … With people the same thing is true. As a person goes through life, he leaves behind a wake.” (Integrity, Dr. Henry Cloud, 2005)
That picture captures my imagination and I try to think about the kind of wake that I leave as I sail through life. Cloud observes that we leave a two-sided wake, relationships and tasks. We should remember that it isn’t just how we accomplish those jobs we are assigned. It is equally important to consider who we effect in the process.
Cloud suggests that we look around and evaluate.
On the task side of our lives, we should ask –
– Am I completing tasks on time and without needless diversions?
– Do I understand the task and set my course to finish it?
– Is my work well done, worthy of review?
– Am I investing passion in my daily life, or draining energy from those around me?
On the relational side we should ask –
– Do I create hope and encourage?
– Do I build barriers and discourage?
– Are people glad that I have passed by?
– Are they relieved when I leave?
– Do I leave people enriched or exploited?
Sometimes the answers to such questions are obvious. In other situations discerning how we have performed or how we have interacted is not easy seen. Why? We are not the only ones creating a wake through life. Others bring their own personalities and programs into our lives. The smooth wake that we attempt to create is broken up by theirs. As their wake flows into ours, if we are at cross-purposes, the chop that is created can stir up a real tempest!
Is God, the Holy Spirit, setting your course? When the Spirit and the Word helps us to understand His ways; we catch the wind and – sail on! We cannot adjust speed or course every time somebody makes an objection to our heading! Of critical importance is time alone with God that brings us understand of what He wants from us. Then, we sail on.
When we commit ourselves to principled living and pray for His Spirit to keep us on course, the wake left behind us will be a good one. Yes, there will be moments of wavering, times of rough water, but overall the results and relationships will be positive.
Take a look at the wake you’re leaving on life’s sea. Is it straight and true? Does it show steady speed? Don’t just look at the immediate past. Try looking back a few months, a couple of years, a decade perhaps. I hope you’re drawn straight on as you follow “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2, KJV) I pray you do not see zigs and zags, times of irresponsibility even regret. Are there places where you went ‘dead in the water,’ giving up, pulling down the sails in fear or frustration?
Change is possible. God renews our call, forgives our sins, and gives us vision so that we can set sail. Evaluate! Celebrate the good with thanksgiving. Confess the failures with humility. Most of all, know Him today, as the Captain of your life.
Here’s a word from the Word for this day. Take this benediction and turn it into your prayerful petition today. I am … “praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you …
As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul— not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us
.” (Colossians 1:9-12, The Message) Amen