If you have been through The Journey, you know all about the Sailboat Analogy and the Letter to God we encourage our participants to write about their sailboat.  Recently, this lesson and exercise penetrated one of our participants in Tulsa in such a profound way, we thought we would share his discoveries and his letter with the rest of you.  We pray this might help you take an honest look at your sailboat and what God might be doing in your life.

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Good evening!

My wife is certain most people would say I do not have a serious bone in my body and she believes it veils my brilliance.  I must say, I agree with her on both premises. Today, however, I will have a more serious tone as I will be sharing my “Letter to God” about my sailboat (me) (Enabled session 4) and its true pre-Journey condition.

Before I read my letter, let me start with a “Treat Truism.”  This truism is about a couple of destructive behaviors (cousins of sort) that I stored in the cargo bay of my boat. Their names are Bitterness and Unforgiveness and as I reflect on the past, I realize I invited their presence and thus their upheaval into my life.

Here we go, “Treat’s Truism.” Bitterness spawns unforgiveness and unforgiveness prolongs bitterness. Let me repeat that. Bitterness spawns unforgiveness and unforgiveness prolongs bitterness. They actually feed on each other; that’s how they not only survive, but thrive. Please keep this “Truism” in mind as I share my letter.

 

“My Letter to God”

My Sailboat (My Life)

Dear God,

Am I hearing You correctly?  You want me to take an exhaustive, honest and reflective look at my Sailboat of Life, the one that was moored to the dock heavily laden with cargo?  You want me to fully comprehend the deplorable condition that my boat was in, pre “Journey” and the restoration process that took place as a result of “The Journey” in 2017? Is that what you want?  Some of that could be painful God. But, with your help, here we go!

God, as you know, one look even by the casual observer, should and most likely would have raised serious doubts as to the seaworthiness of my boat.  The paint was pealing, the deck was rotting, the sail was weathered and contained noticeable tears and holes, and the rudder was in disrepair and needed obvious attention. My boat had been moored to the dock so long I could not remember the last time I had used the anchor for its original intent. Even though, over the years, I added what I deemed as upgrades to my boat, i.e., Bible reading, attending church and Sunday school regularly, becoming Children’s Church Director, a Christian Education Director, and even acquiring a degree in Theology Religious Education, my boat was not a trustworthy vessel.

Had I continued attempting to sail in this boat, in such a rapidly deteriorating condition, I surely would have become “lost at sea.” How had this happened?  Where was I to begin the process of restoring this boat to a seaworthy condition?

God the first task I took on was the inspection of the anchor. A necessary part of any boat if you are to keep it in place once a destination has been reached. It is so fundamental that the importance of having a good secure anchor, operating properly, is easily overlooked.  After raising my anchor, removing the accumulated algae and the sea urchins, I was able to see there were no signs of irreversible wear or corrosion.  I was reminded of the promises of Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Even though my anchor appeared to have many good and useful years left in it, I was reminded that the casting of my anchor should always be guided by the Holy Spirit. An anchor cast in the wrong place can, and most likely will, get caught on the rocks and the underbrush of life. Once there it can become very difficult to raise the anchor and set sail on the right course.

Next, because they were so paramount in the sailing preparedness of my sailboat, I decided to take on the woeful conditions of the sail and the rudder.  After close examination, I reluctantly concluded my sail was in far worse condition than I first assessed.  Years of neglect not only brought holes and tears to the sail, but the canvas itself was beginning to rot. The rudder was in shambles. The bolts and nuts that once held the rudder blade to the lower casing had rusted through and thus the rudder blade was no longer attached and was surely resting somewhere on the bottom of the sea. A new sail and a new rudder were the order of the day if I was ever going to make this vessel seaworthy again.  A sail that cannot catch the wind is useless on any boat and a boat without a rudder has no direction.

God, as you know, I’m a slow learner and old habits and old thinking are difficult for me break.  At this point I was thinking I could accomplish this task myself. So with resolve and determination, I set off to fetch my toolbox to begin the process of replacing the sail and the rudder. As I got to the end of the walkway that led to the shore, I realized it was not earthly tools I needed for this job. What I needed were heavenly tools of faith.  The faith Jesus talked about in Matthew 17:20 when he said, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain be gone, and it shall be removed.” I also recalled 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Then I asked myself a rhetorical question, “Why would anyone attempt to apply earthly tools to repair a heavenly condition?”  The sail that was needed in my life was a new sail to catch the wind, the Holy Spirit, and in effect allow Him to become the new power that propelled my boat.  The new rudder I needed was to give me direction but with the complete knowledge and understanding that without the Holy Spirit’s guidance I could well utilize the rudder to steer my “Sailboat of Life” in the wrong direction.

So I paused, and I prayed, and You answered, “All the repairs have already been made. They were made at Calvary and your obligation is to accept them and Abide in Christ my Son.” I said, “Thank You Lord” and turned around to see a new sail and a new rudder. But God, you didn’t just answer my prayer, you also replaced the mast, all the required rigging, installed a new deck, and lastly you equipped my boat with a new compass; all of which were necessary for me to sail my boat properly and safely.

My boat was almost seaworthy again. But still, something was not quite right as my boat was floating noticeably low in the water and listing to one side.  So I decided to take a complete item by item inventory of the cargo. Undoubtedly, after decades of neglect, I had taken on an enormous amount of unnecessary and destructive cargo. When I opened the cargo bay door, I was immediately confronted by a large, ominous box with a handwritten note in big red letters; “YOUR SINS AND YOUR SHORTCOMINGS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES.”  Inside the larger box were several smaller boxes, each with its own label.

The first box, the largest of them all, was labeled “Your Bitterness and Unforgiveness.” There was an all too familiar reason why it was larger than all the other boxes. This box contained a detailed accounting of the painful events that led to my harboring hate and resentment towards an individual whom I believed had wronged me.  It contained detailed summaries of the many attempts I had made over decades to harm this person in any manner I deemed he deserved.  To characterize it as difficult to read was an enormous understatement.  In the unveiling of these hideous truths, I realized just how much these despicable acts were in control of and thus defining my life.

Each box that I opened thereafter had a heading that read “Consequences of Sins” with a subtitle that listed only one sin and its consequence.  God, as you know, there were many boxes of this nature.  But, the last three you had me open, were particularly egregious in content. At that point I began to fully comprehend and accept the consequences of my behavior.

The first of these three boxes was subtitled “Unforgiveness Affects Your Daily Interactions.”  Reading this gave me pause and I began to understand and evaluate just how much my relationship with my wife was being wrongfully influenced by my behavior. Anger was the protocol of the day and it raised its ugly head even in our casual conversations. My wife kept telling me I was an angry man; to which I would proceed to get in her face and in a shrill, threatening voice, scream, “I’m not angry!” Things had to change and it had to happen quickly, as I embraced the frightening reality that this was a part of the cargo I could no longer tolerate if our relationship was ever going to heal.

I picked up the second box subtitled “Unforgiveness Grieves the Holy Spirit,” and without hesitation I instinctively cast it aside.  As you know God, in all my years as a “practicing Christian,” I had never invited your Holy Spirit to be an active part of my relationship with You and your Son.  I was in my “comfort zone” when it came to that relationship and I had no room for the presence of the “mysterious” Holy Spirit. I now recognize that I was harboring this distorted theology out of a combination of fear and ignorance. But, then God you spoke to me with an authoritative but loving voice. “Pick up the box and carefully examine its contents; it is vitally important to you and your future spiritual growth.” Now obedience is not always easy, but it is a requirement.  So, with some trepidation in my spirit, I picked up the box and upon carefully reading its contents, the message revealed to me was clear. All these years, yes even decades, I had unwittingly been grieving the Holy Spirit. It was then that I began to fully embrace and comprehend that my actions opened the door to my distorted thinking and thus my ungodly behavior of the past. Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear you.” My refusal to forgive meant that I put the Holy Spirit in such an untenable position He simply stepped aside and allowed me to cope with my “problems” in my own strengths or even worse, my weaknesses.

The last of the three boxes, and perhaps the one that jolted my conscience the most, had a profound subtitle, “Unforgiveness Blocks an Authentic Fellowship with Your Father in Heaven.” Wow,” talk about hitting at the very core of my being!  Yes, God, I understood that unforgiveness was no greater sin than any other sin.  However, I came to an acute awareness that it’s more cynical in nature and thus it was easier for me to justify my revengeful actions. But, your Son said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters.” The unforgiveness I ardently guarded in my heart was driving a wedge between me and Jesus.  I therefore accepted that I could not effectively have an intimate, abiding relationship with Him and harbor unforgiveness in my heart at the same time.  I understand now that I gave birth to my unforgiveness by rationalizing that I occupied the morally superior high ground of being right. Therefore, my feelings were justified and whatever course of action I deemed necessary was not only justified, but righteous; a clear example that a person could be right and be wrong at the same time.

Enough said.  All unforgiveness and other sin cargo had to be offloaded to the dock, so its rightful owner, the prince of this world, aka the Trash Hauler, could pick it up and take it to its appropriate location, his dump. There was never again going to be room in my boat for such cargo as this.

Once this was accomplished my cargo bay miraculously began to fill up with other boxes labeled “Fruits of the Spirit.” Boxes with subtitles that read Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.  Inexplicability, even though there were many more boxes now in my cargo bay, the load burden on my ship was far less than before. My cargo load was evenly balanced and my boat was no longer floating low in the water and no longer in danger of sinking.  Also, and just as inexplicable, each time the Holy Spirit sought to load more and more of the Fruits of the Spirit into my cargo bay, there was always ample room.

The last thing my Sailboat of Life needed was a new paint job. Oh, I know it was strictly a cosmetic requirement but I always embraced the old adage that “First impressions are everything.”  Christians should reflect Christ in their daily living. Proverbs 15:13 tells me that “….a joyful face is the result of a joyful heart.” Therefore, I should strive to keep a joyful heart so that I may reflect the love of Christ to the people around me. Even if I say nothing to them, it should be obvious that my life is always anchored in Christ.

So there you have it God.  You have facilitated a complete makeover, and now my “Sailboat of Life” has become well equipped by You, through the “Journey,” to be my “Sailboat in Life.”  I now know that I can take on the waves and storms of life because I am anchored in You. I shall always be keenly aware that it is the Holy Spirit that should be the “Skipper” at the helm, guiding me in the direction I should go and directing where I should cast my anchor.

Sincerely,

Your servant, Gene

 

Guys, let me reflect a little on what I just read to you.  I just confessed to you that prior to the Journey I was in a perpetual state of unforgiveness against a brother in Christ.  For decades no less. What did I do with Matthew 6:14-15?   “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I will tell what I did. I brushed it aside and made the conscious decision to hold onto sin because in my convoluted thinking, I was justified. If I’m going to be honest with myself, I must embrace the sad but true reality that my relationship with Jesus was in an extremely precarious state. Brothers, don’t go there.  Run like hell from Satan’s insidious attempts to get you to embrace and hold onto sins such as bitterness and unforgiveness.  There’s no upside to harboring these destructive conditions in your heart. They will, with certainty, render your sailboat floating aimlessly at sea and could very well sink it.

Colossians 3:13 NLT Translation

 

“Make allowance for each others faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must (must not should) forgive others.”

Now time presented a quandary as to what I should do. This brother that offended me, had long ago moved across the country, so I could not easily go to him as the Word instructs.  I decided to write him and his wife a letter (yes snail mail) asking for their forgiveness and at the same time extending my forgiveness to them. More than a year has passed and I have not heard from them.  That’s OK.  For, as you can tell from my Letter to God, I am now free from the burdens of bitterness and unforgiveness in my life.  Remember earlier I said “Obedience is not always easy, but it is required.” When I obeyed God and mailed that letter, He immediately removed those sins from my heart and lifted the ever present, heavy burden from my shoulders. I was no longer tormented.  By the way, I also sent him a brand new copy of “Journey to the Inner Chamber” and told him about the Journey.

Brothers, life is not a practice run, this is the real thing. If you choose to spend your day languishing in bitterness and unforgiveness, it is a day of your life that is lost.  You cannot go to God at the end of that day and tell Him you did not enjoy it and ask Him if you can trade it in for a new day. I say again, it is a day lost. It is a day you chose to spend in unhappiness and a day you cannot redeem. Don’t do as I did.  Don’t accumulate wasted days one day at a time that transitions into weeks, months, years and then decades. I promise you, if you choose to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness, you will surely build a wall between you and the love of God.

And, a couple more things and I’ll wrap up because I’m about to start preaching. In your daily living, don’t relegate the Holy Spirit to a part time presence in your lives. And secondly, don’t disrespect Him by consigning Him to just being background noise.  It’s stupid, stupid, stupid and did I mention that it’s stupid? Instead, run to Him, embrace Him and proclaim Him. God the Holy Spirit must have a moment by moment presence in your Sailboat of Life for you to have a deep abiding relationship with God the Father and God the Son.  And, after all, isn’t that our goal in the Journey and yes, the Anchor?

Galatians 5:7, “You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?”

Guys, I submit to you, I looked no further than the mirror for the answer.

Father in Heaven.  Sin is sin! However, there are sins that are more difficult for us to recognize as sin because they are kind of under the radar so to speak.  The sins of Bitterness and Unforgiveness are emotional sins so we place them in a category of being “justified.”  And precisely because they are justified in our minds, we tend to look upon them as being innocuous.  They are far from it.  They, just like any other sin, hinder our efforts to Abide in Christ.  So teach us how not to hold on to offenses, how not to keep score, and how not to indulge in bitterness and unforgiveness.  Teach us not to take things personally. Give us the courage and strength it takes to love and forgive others as You have loved and forgiven all of us in this room.

 In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit……….Amen