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Desire for the Sea

By T. Ray Rachels

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to go to the forest to gather wood, saw it, and nail the planks together. Instead, teach them the desire for the sea,” said World War II pilot and French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

That quotation holds great meaning because it suggests a profound difference between routine and passion. And all of us, I believe, want to be people of passion.

In our partnership with God in building His Church, we are often wood gatherers, lumber millers, and plank nailers. But, if the open sea and salt air of spiritual vision hits our face just right, we can be visionary communicators of the incredible wonders of heaven. People will hear who are thirsty, who in the depths of their soul know they were made for something more than being a landlubber.

When you cast a vision for a heart throbbing, wind in your face, what’s out there? love of the sea, and all that God promises from its depths, from that passion people will shake off routine and build the ship. Otherwise routine rules, and likely will point away from the sea.

“Americans almost all say religion matters, yet more people than ever are opting out,” according to the American Religious Identification Survey, 2001. The March 7, USA Today reported that in 2001, more than 29.4 million Americans (14 percent up from 8 percent in 1990) said they had no religion. The article quoted among others Laura Terry of Whidbey Island, Washington, who, with offhanded disinterest said, “We haven’t gone to church since we were children. Our kids go to (private) school, where they learn philosophy of all religions, and I think that’s enough.”

Question: In what ways can the vision casters of the church — you and me — bring the beauty of the gospel to the Laura Terry’s of the world, and give them a desire for the sea? The answers to that question, if found personally, need to energize our soul’s spiritual ignition system, and transform a routine ministry into a passionate one.

One answer might be found in a poignant sentence that writer Anne Lamott discovered in a prayer book she was skimming through for answers to her own personal problems: “The Gulf Stream will flow through a straw provided the straw is aligned to the Gulf Stream, and not at cross purposes with it.”

What that means for those of us trying to influence and teach people the desire for the sea, is this: When we align ourselves with the river of God, that river of spiritual wholeness, and experience the glory of having God’s Gulf Stream flow through us, we become touched by a deep and infinite mystery. May God help us find that passion. But, if we spend our ministry just looking for wood, sawing, and nailing planks together, we are at cross purposes with the river. May God save us from that routine.

Let’s point people out to sea and trust that the God of eternity will put eternity in their hearts.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14,15).

T. RAY RACHELS, currently executive presbyter for The General Council of the Assemblies of God, Southwest Region, and former Southern California District superintendent, 1988–2010.

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