Once upon a time there was a tiny village by the seashore. The people of this village were afraid of the sea. “It’s dangerous,” they said. “Don’t get too close.” They thought the ocean was pretty, and they liked the beach, but the water secretly frightened them. They saw storms come in with winds and waves that battered the rocks at the beach. They never built their houses close to the water, because they knew that the ocean would destroy their homes. They went to the beach on sunny days and had picnics. Sometimes the children would splash about in the shallows, but their parents kept them from going too deep into the water. “Playing in the shallows is fine,” they said, “But don’t go out too far. Keep your mind on the beach.”
One day a man came to the village. No one knew where he had come from – he just showed up. A group of teenagers asked him, “Who are you?” They had never seen a stranger before. “Come and see,” he said.
He led them down to the beach. There, pulled up on the sand at low tide, was something they had never seen before. It looked almost like a small house with a rounded bottom sitting on the sand. Out of the top of it came a large pole, as tall as a tree, and a huge piece of cloth was rolled up against the piece of wood.
“What is it?!” they asked in wonder.
“It’s called a boat,” the man said. “I use it to sail over the sea.”
The teenagers were speechless at this. They couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to sail out on the water. But a few of them were curious.
“How do you make it go?” they wondered.
“The wind blows, and it pushes the boat. I use that piece of cloth to catch the wind and it sends me across the water.”
“You go wherever the wind blows?”
“I work with the wind. I have a rudder that helps me steer the boat, but I go where the wind drives me.”
When the teenagers went home, they told their parents about the strange man and his strange boat. The parents said, “Don’t go down to the beach anymore. That man is dangerous. You know the sea is not safe.”
But those teenagers kept going to the beach to talk with the sailor. And he came into town. He told stories of sailing on the waves, of being out in the middle of storms, of wonderful places across the water. A few people listened to his stories and wanted to learn more, but most of the townspeople muttered about this dangerous stranger and how he was filling people’s heads full of dangerous foolishness.
Finally they chased him out of town. They carried him down to the beach, threw him into his boat at high tide, and pushed him out into the water.
Then something amazing happened. A few people – just a handful – cried out, “Wait! We want to go with you!” They splashed through the shallow water and, to the horror of the other villagers, climbed aboard the boat. The sailor pulled them aboard and began teaching them the art of sailing. The villagers watched in shocked silence as the boat sailed farther and farther out on the water and finally disappeared over the horizon.
Finally one old woman said, “Serves them right. They’ll go out on the ocean with him, and they’ll all drown in a storm. Serves them right.” The people turned and walked back to their safe village.
A few of the villagers who had listened to the sailor’s stories meet on the beach once a week. They tell stories about the sailor and his boat. They even splash around in the shallow water. But they are afraid of the sea, and so they never go beyond the shallows.
Legend has it that the sailor is still out there on the ocean with his crew, sailing on the wind and the waves, going wherever the wind blows. Once in a while two or three people from the village will get a strange idea, and they will build a boat. They’ll set sail out into the deep water even though everyone tries to talk them out of their crazy dream. They talk about the sailor as though he was right there with them. They invite others to come along, but almost everyone is afraid to try it. As they launch, someone on the beach will usually say, “Serves them right. They’re going to drown in a storm, you mark my words. Keep your mind on the beach, that’s my advice.”
One of the amazing claims that Jesus’ early followers made was that the Spirit of God lived in them and guided them. This is exactly what Jesus had promised – that the Spirit would come to believers, live in them, and move them around in ways that made no sense to those watching from the world. “The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus said, “And you hear the sound and see its effects, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Those who follow Jesus often make decisions that don’t make any sense from outside. The Spirit blows them in strange directions, sometimes.
Are you willing to leave safety (and maybe even sense) behind in order to sail on the wind of the Holy Spirit? Or do you have too much need to be in control? God is going to get his work done, get his kingdom built, one way or another. The question is, will you be a part of it?