I’m not a sailor, but I’m familiar with the concept of steerage. When a vessel is moving through the water above a minimum speed, the rudder will be able to affect its direction. If it’s not going fast enough to have “steerage way”, the rudder won’t steer the boat. Even to a landlubber like myself, it makes sense. The rudder can’t bite if the water isn’t streaming past it. This is why whitewater rafting is largely an exercise in rowing faster than the current is carrying you. If you just go with the current, you’re drifting and in danger.
It’s often the same way with life’s decisions. Years ago, my wife and I learned the concept of “pray and move forward”. This is a way of seeking out God’s direction in life. At any given time, one might feel like God is calling him or her to do something, start something, change something, etc. This model means you pray about it – and this is important – while you take steps toward doing it. Both parts are essential. If you’re not praying, how can you seek God’s guidance in a given endeavor? And if you aren’t moving forward, how can you have steerage way to see how He will guide?
An example of this from our marriage was when Dorine went back to school, working toward her master’s degree. She had been home with small children for five years, and it seemed perhaps a little odd to consider embarking on a degree program with little ones in the house. But she felt like it might be something toward which God was leading her. So what did we do? We started praying about it. We knew that if God wanted her to go this route, it would have an impact on the entire family. But we also knew He would work in it and make a way for it to happen.
As we were praying, we started working through the practical aspects of the journey: entrance exam, application, finances, childcare, schedule, etc. In each of these steps, there was an opportunity for a door to be opened or a door to be closed. In the case of grad school for Dorine, the doors kept opening as we kept praying and moving forward. Soon enough, it was time for her to start classes.
Of course, that’s just one example. There have been other times when we’ve prayed about something and moved forward, only to have doors close or the direction change. Whatever the result, we’ve been able to look at the outcome with far less ambiguity because we prayed (and kept praying!) about it and took action – moved forward – along the path. Pray, move forward, see what doors open.
It’s often easy to pray about something without moving forward. We can become paralyzed, waiting for some sign or hint from God that this is or is not the way He is leading. And, while I’m sure God can work in any way He chooses, I think we miss out when we adopt the wait-and-see posture. Regardless of the ultimate answer, the act of stepping out in faith toward something and seeking God is (at least in part) what the Christian walk is all about.
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Since it’s allegedly New Year’s resolution season, I put forth this challenge. What is God calling you to pray about as you move forward in 2017?