My wife, Janice, used to sail. Mirror dinghies. She raced them. As far as I can see, they are like pieces of plywood with a hanky on top as a sail. Precarious.
Now, here's the thing. When Janice is on a ferry to Cairnryan, she can't cope. One wee roll of the sea and she's seasick. How can someone who sailed a piece of plywood in Belfast Lough struggle in the relative safety of a massive ferry?
It is to do with purpose. When Janice was occupied with things to do on the dinghy, it caused her to miss the waves crashing against the plywood. With nothing to think about on the ferry, Janice struggles to get through.
These coronavirus days are wearing us down. Seven months in, we are weary. We would like to pretend this was all over and hope that that would get rid of this virus with all its restrictions and re-learning and physical distancing.
The truth is that it is not going away soon. Robin Swann is suggesting that October will be our winter, but Robin knows that there are going to be more winters after that.
So, what if we set ourselves a purpose. In Philippians 3, Paul talks about his faith in Christ. He reminds us that he was an arrogant religious person, who thought he had it all together, but then threw all his self-righteousness out and gave in to the grace of a loving God.
The work of Jesus brought him a righteousness that his own work at keeping the law couldn't compete with.
From there, Paul says that he hasn't obtained perfection, but presses on towards the prize to which God calls us heavenward in Christ Jesus.
So ... what if? What if we set ourselves a spiritual purpose? What if we give ourselves a programme of useful spiritual formation to concentrate our minds, heart and souls during this next six months towards Easter? Another secret to avoid feeling seasick is to apparently fix your eye on a mark on the horizon. Let's make that Easter. We can see it is a short section on our longer journey towards God's prize.
I am tweaking this from an original idea from the Oxford Anglican Diocese. I am suggesting a Spiritual Rule of Six. Six months until Easter. Six Fixes, Six people and Six acts of salt and light.
Six fixes is an opportunity to search our souls for the weaknesses of character and selfish habits that Jesus died to fix. Let us seek these out and pray and seek the Spirit's help to work on them.
Six people to care for. Maybe we can pray for them regularly. Maybe call them, or text, making sure they are coping with the coronavirus restrictions. Perhaps we could help with shopping and other errands.
Then six acts of salt and light. Are there ways to reach into our community? Perhaps it could be a foodbank, or other charity which works with the homeless, or even an international NGO. We might volunteer, or give financially, or pray. Finding out what is going on in the needs of community and the wider world is a great start.
So, let us continue across this uncertain sea. Let us press on towards a goal. Let's focus on a mark on the horizon that might help us in the uncertain sea that we are in with Janice's metaphorical wee bit of plywood and hanky sail.
Rev Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast
Apt Bible readings
Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:
Monday: Philippians 3:7-11
Tuesday: Philippians 3:12-14
Wednesday: Psalm 139:23-24
Thursday: Philippians 2:1-11
Friday: Matthew 5:13-16