No Clear Path Forward

When I lived in Iowa, I spent a great deal of time fishing the Mississippi River. I went out and bought my first boat that was big enough for my family but was designed for fishing. Most of the time, you could find me on my day off flying down the river to some great location to go fishing. One morning I was heading down the river when I turned a sharp corner to find myself wrapped in fog. Suddenly everything disappeared. This happened the days before high tech electronics and sophistical apps on my phone that could help me with GPS. There I was in the middle of a large river with only my compass to guide me.

The fog allowed me to see only about 10 feet in front of the boat, so I slowed down to idle speed. The danger on the Mississippi river is what they call wing dams. These are piles of rocks that jut out from each side to keep the flow of water in the middle and the channel deep enough for large boats. These wing dams often lie one to three feet under the surface of the water. Many careless captains have hit them, destroying their prop and usually the lower unit of their motor. It can be quite dangerous on a clear day, but under cover of fog, with little to guide me, I found myself unsure of which direction to turn to avoid danger and arrive at my destination.

Right now, this is a perfect illustration of life. The year was sailing along fine, and then we turned a corner and hit a fog we now call Covid-19. Suddenly I can only see a few feet ahead of me, and I am not sure how to navigate with any clarity. With every hour, the news changes with more local cases confirmed, government mandates, and suggestions on how to stay safe. I am trying to move my life forward, but I know dangers are lurking under the waters that I cannot see at present.

What do you do in moments like this? Well, on the river that day I did three things. One, I prayed for God to guide me. I do this in any desperate situation where issues lie beyond my control. Two, I moved forward slowly. Proceed with caution. Three, I counted the cost. If I hit something, it might mean I would need to purchase a new prop for my boat. That could be up to $300 in one mistake, but it would not destroy the whole thing.

Those three things, I believe, are still the perfect advice for times like this. One, make prayer a priority. Two, move forward slowly. There is no rush to figure out your plans for a month from now. Take it one day at a time. Third, consider the cost. Will the choices you are making now have long term consequences if they fail. For example, my 84-year-old mother has completely isolated herself, even from family, because we want her to be with us a long time. These three simple things will keep us grounded in our faith and in the ability to make wise choices.

Sure enough, that day on the river, I hit a wing dam. It did a little damage to the prop but not enough to require an expensive repair. I evaluated the damage and then kept moving forward slowly. Eventually, I rounded another corner and hit daylight. I took off again and managed to catch a cooler of fish. The day turned out alright despite the first hour of stress. I am sure the same is true for this year. It has been an unprecedented start, but I am sure daylight is right around the corner.

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