We had fun during children’s time yesterday. I put the kids in a make-believe boat propelled by an adult at each end. Then I gave them a cardboard rudder and explain that this is how we steer the boat. One little boy declared that we needed to go to the castle, so off we went! Then all of a sudden we lost our rudder and the wind picked up and the seas got stormy and we had no way to steer. The kids and I were tossed and twirled around until our boat broke apart. I tried to explain (though I’m not sure how successful I was) that God was like our rudder, keeping us going in the right direction.
(For the full audio version of this sermon, click here.)
When Moses went up the mountain to convene with God and didn’t return for a very long time, the Hebrews must have felt like they’d lost their rudder. So, they found Aaron (the second in command) and demanded that he make them a God to lead them. Aaron, in his infinite wisdom (yes, you can read some sarcasm into that) fashions them a golden calf for them to worship. This seems to be a human tendency, to create rudders for our lives of things that are transitory and impermanent like people, jobs, daily routines and structure, or even material things.
I remember when we did visioning about the future at the last church I was at and we asked the people what they felt most identified the church, what was really important for the community, and the responses included “the red doors” and the “the steeple.” I’m not sure that’s any better than the golden calf!
On a more emotional and personal level, we make the people in our lives our rudders; our partners and parents, our kids and our friends. Now, I’m not in any way denying the importance of these people in our lives, the love we have for them, nor the ways that they help us through. But if they become the only rudder by which we guide our lives, then we probably come close to being co-dependent. And we have nothing to fall back on if we lose them.
I have seen people not be able to function for years, and some people for the rest of their lives, because the entirety of who they were was tied up in another who died or left them. I’ve seen people who die shortly after retirement because they had nothing else. David La Chapelle says we need to find the “invariant constant,” that which endures throughout all changes, that which is not impermanent or transitory. The only thing I know of that fits that bill is God.
The question perhaps becomes how do we develop a sustainable relationship with the Divine? We are so used to looking outside of ourselves for answers, for help from God, for direction, support, comfort, that we forget to cultivate our inner relationship with the Divine. Yet, that is precisely what the spiritual journey is about. If we are able to cultivate a relationship with the Divine when the sun is shining, hopefully when those stormy days come, we will have an invariant constant to guide our little ships.
There is no specific formula for doing this, it is all about what works for you. Maybe it is prayer, meditation, study, worship, music, walking, God-conversations, or journaling. Whatever it is, it is important that we find time and ways to deepen our trust and knowing of the Divine.