My marriage came with five children. At present, on a good day, all of us are out of diapers and the kids are now in their teens and 20s.
After a busy school year, I wanted some down time. After some meetings in Boston last week I snuck off, alone, for a few days on Cape Cod and then caught a ferry to hear a friend sing in a Nantucket jazz series. We were kindly invited to lunch at the local yacht club, where I soon found myself admiring the boats both moored and in motion.
Sailing is complicated, of course, especially at sea where the risks contend with the rewards. There’s much to think about — currents, wind, storms, unfurling sails, tacks and reaches, booms and blenders, and avoiding rocks and other potential collisions. William Buckley once quipped, and I paraphrase, “Sailing is like standing in a cold shower while ripping up $100 bills.” (That was thirty years ago. Inflation translation: $500 bills.).
Given the domestic routines, and expenses, of living in community/family, I’m pondering sailing as a metaphor for keeping a home and raising children, or nurturing a community of any kind. Of course the joys are worth the ride, but I’ll save those for other CGO entries.
My husband, David, is more content than I just to have a happy crew, floating in the moment. He trusts in God’s sovereignty, whatever befalls, as if the Lord were Three in One: True North, a mysteriously wonderful Wind, and the Skipper of the ship. I, on the other hand, am crazed without a Plan. A finely charted course. A future goal. A beatific vision. A telos that makes sense of the daily cold water and disappearing $500 bills. And then I can be a happy floater.
We’re finding that some of our friends, even whole families and communities, do in fact make “mission statements” and “personal growth charts.” David is trying to accommodate me (while also praying for my inner healing and the remaining affects of 14 years in Cambridge, MA). The kids are playing along. And, we’re coming to see that we, as a family, are to grow in personal character and "the artistic expression of the Gospel," whatever that may mean for each of us.
In such a highly confused world -- an epistemologically challenged and “ontologically light” world -- what Nantucket islanders call a “fog like pea soup” world, it isn’t easy to see the goal. But we have in moments beheld the glory of Jesus, and as we hold on to that glory, to that face, we can only want to see it more vividly ourselves, and to reveal his face to others. We are compelled to become artists, even if that means dabbling a bit better than last year, to reveal something of his glory.
It is a good vision. We are becoming more of ourselves, and more human, as we hold this course. Shy Joshua, 18, is now writing music on the piano and being cast as Romeo and Hamlet and Huck in drama camps. Michelle, 16, is beginning to accept the power and beauty of her voice. John, 24, is finding his child-like heart and personality again. April, 26, is learning about screenplays and adventures away from home. Keya and Stephen are nurturing a child in utero, by God’s grace. David and I are writing and trusting and weathering storms, learning to stay the course often cheerfully together. (I call to mind Norweigen ancestors who came to America on a boat called "Veritas.")
Shoving off from Nantucket, sailing for the mainland, I pulled out my (okay, amazing) i-Phone and plugged into Chris Rice’s excellent song:
“Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors I have never seen.
Deep enough to join a million people at the Wedding Feast.
Deep enough to reach out and touch the face of the One who made me.”
That is deep water, indeed. And I found myself shedding a few tears for those, even the very-wealthy and self-sufficient of Nantucket Island, who will never set such a sail. Who will never behold, or be held by, such a vision.