Day after day, day after day We stuck, nor breath, nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Who would have foreseen that the salty tales of old sea dogs and sailors could suddenly become the latest hot-button topic? These days, we’re learning all about navigating life in the doldrums.
Of course, in this scientific age, we’ve got a technical term. ‘The doldrums’ are now the Inter-Tropic Convergence Zone; a thin band of longitude and latitude around the equator where intense solar heating basically causes opposing trade winds to nullify themselves. The magnificent ships of old could be trapped for weeks in these waters, moving only along the breathing swell of the ocean itself. No wind, no motion, no distance. You can imagine the kind of problems this level of protracted inactivity caused. Men died of scurvy and disease, food ran low, and many, simply, went mad. To be caught in the doldrums was a serious test of leadership and morale, discipline and endurance.
The waters of 2020 find us in this unique, shared moment. The world is suspended in the Corona doldrums of imposed inactivity. At first, the waters of change were turbulent with dark clouds on the horizon. Escalating numbers of sick and the stress of caring for them consumed us. We battened down the hatches to ride out the storm, and normal life came to a screeching halt.
Now, however, after four long months, the tempo has smoothed into unnerving weeks of static repetition. Waking in the morning, we find a duplicate day stretched out before us. With a deep sigh, we shore up our faltering optimism in grim routines of deliberate activity. We’ve just about come to the end of our extensive list of make-work projects. To put it mildly, it's a slump, and there’s no end in sight. I realized the other day that I was waking to find a nameless dread ready to pounce. A deep, primordial trepidation thrummed in my spirit, a sense that things were wrong and it was all my fault, and no amount of logic could dispel it.
What do you do when nothing is moving? What could the spiritual benefits possibly be? I’m scratching hard for answers. If it is indeed possible to redeem evil days, we’d better be on it. There’s got to be a silver lining; hidden treasure taken as spoil by the spiritually aware. There are key directives to mining this impossible season. Where should we dig?
“Rest” and “Revelate” may be pivotal words. Isaiah 30:15 struck my spirit again with great force again recently.
For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength...
There are left-handed, non-dominant, skills of passivity that may only be developed when life is confusing and contrary. This scripture reminds us not to underestimate the advantages of simply submitting to circumstances with a good attitude, graciousness, patience and sublime confidence that the Lord is still in control. Our job is simply to keep the composure of faith, master our spirit and develop a constant vigilance for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit directing in the moment. Resist the tendency to despise “the day of small things” (Zech 4:10) we're in.
This is also a time for serious self-examination. I don’t think I’m alone in observing that on-going frustrations are exposing some of the worst parts of my character. Maybe, it’s time to deal with them. The inertia of this season forces us to really dive into the Word, soak in worship and expand prophetically. Tap into the benefits of increased communication on all fronts. We always have wind in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Where is He moving?
Thirdly, It’s a season to really expect revelation and position yourself for it.
Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3
We frequently forget that the Lord is deeply gratified to share all the layers and levels of wisdom with us. It's getting our undivided attention that's so difficult. To be savvy and sagely positioned for the future, we need simply ask and listen.
The song of the sea and ancient mariners seems very close these days. Surviving the doldrums isn't easy, but sitting on still water, the calm might slowly penetrate our frenetic grasping. Senses become sharpened; keen to the most minute of changes. Subtle joys once again thrill us, and true priorities emerge in their shining colors.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all your waves and your billows are gone over me. Psalm 42:7
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