The Observation Principle and My Condition

I was going through some of the old comments that have been made on my blog and some of the comments that I’ve made on other blogs today.  I found one comment from early in my blogging experiment where I actually wrote that my blog is not written for others to read it.  I just about laughed out loud.  It’s true that these thoughts need to be written down somewhere purely for the sake of letting some pressure escape from my brain, but these posts are most certainly written for people to read them.  And that changes the nature of what they are.  It forces the abstract, frustrating whisps of thought into something at least a tiny bit more coherent and organized.  It forces me to go from, “What am I trying to say?” to “This is what I think and now let me explain why.”  I like that; it’s been cathartic.

And with that, I open my first blog in… months (I’m too lazy to check how long).

Here is an update on my life for any who haven’t heard:  I am staying here in Fort Collins.  I said no to the Phoenix job, not because it was a bad option, but because I really came to the conclusion that my time is not done here in Fort Collins.  I will be spending this next school year working at Best Buy (rock on) and serving at Faith E. Free as the director for The Well (the college service) and one of the worship leaders for Faith’s main service.  I will also be pouring a substantial amount of time into Eikon to see how far that vision can go.

But that little piece of exposition does not by any means tell you the story of my life right now- and that’s why I’m actually writing a little blog post about this.   I titled this post “The Observation Principle and My Condition.”  The Observation Principle has to do with a theory from quantum mechanics that the act of observing something actually changes the thing itself.  I was loosely trying to connect that with how my act of writing this blog has changed by the fact that people actually read it.  But when I added the part that reads “My Condition” I was referring to what I really want to write about: an ongoing issue that I notice in me, an ingrained part of my humanity.

This summer was incredibly hard for a period.  After I had decided to let Phoenix go, school stuff had faded, the reality of no-job set in and I was faced with an interesting segment of my life.  The one constant in my life (school) was gone.   I did not have a career, I did not have my own family, and I did not have a job which meant I did not have money.  Not a great place to be, but, hey, how many college grads have been there?  But then I lost my car, followed shortly by my way, in a sense.  I literally had a space of about 5 weeks this summer where I felt like I was just floating adrift.

When I say adrift, I don’t just mean floating around, moving slowly.  I hope that I can muster the lyrical strength to provide you with the proper imagery here:  When I was in Florida a few weeks ago, I got to ride on a sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a fantastic experience, one I will remember for probably the rest of my life.  But I will never forget my impression of one moment on that ride, and I’m not really sure why it made such an impression, because I’m guessing my family members probably don’t even remember this.  But there was a short period when the captain turned the boat’s engine off to just take it all in (yes, I meant to say “engine,” we used the engine to get out into open water).   What struck me at that moment was the total lack of motion; no wind, no lapping waves, not even fresh air.  The air literally was stale as we sat there, warm and stale, kind of like those summer nights when you wake in the middle of the night sweating and you realize the air is just warm enough that you can’t cool down at all, and the air is musty enough that you feel as if you’re breathing air that is twice-used.    You know, where you can fill your lungs with each breath and still feel like you’re suffocating? It gave me a small idea of the horror of being stranded in a life raft for days on the open seas with the sun beating down on you from sunrise to sunset: no escape, no a/c, no fans, no direction, no compass to even know which direction is the right direction IF you were even moving in a direction, sun burns, thirst, that slow feeling of suffocating under a bright blue sky… is this helping you understand my analogy at all?  I kind of felt like that for part of this summer.  I asked myself everyday: “Did I miss the boat somewhere?”  “Where did I leave my compass?” and even, “Is anyone out there even looking for me?”

There are two things that I realized in this state, and these two things I will attribute to divine inspiration:

1)  I am not adrift in a life-raft, no matter how much it feels like it.  I am adrift in a sailboat.  It may occasionally run out of gas for the engine or lack wind for it’s sails, but it is a sail boat nonetheless, given to me by God (this is supposed to represent my life).  And…

2) It’s not my fault that there is no wind to fill my sails.  God brings the winds and He can certainly take them away if He sees fit (Psalm 135:6-7, Psalm 148:7-8).  In my short-sightedness, I may definitely have been the cause of running out of gas, but wind, in comparison, is surely the resource that could carry me round the world over and over, should God so desire to send me that way.

It really came down to a type of defining moment for me.  Because as I sat there wondering if my sails would ever really fill again and a fresh wind would carry me off to some exotic locale, I had to make a choice: I knew that eventually my sails would fill, to some degree, and I also knew that at some point I would be able to get some more gas.  But I needed to choose which I would let set the course for my life.

Will I be a boat that sputters along with a loud and inefficient motor pushing me along at a whopping 6 1/2 knots?  Or will I be a boat that opens the sails full and rides where the winds go, without thought for the return journey?  I know I’m kind of drawing this analogy/metaphor/whatever out, so I’m going to end with this:

On that same day of sailing, later in the day, after the moment of stale calm, after a little snorkeling, and certainly after beginning to wonder if it would be possible to be disappointed with my first sailboat experience, we saw some clouds approaching.  The captain smiled and opened the sails up all the way.  First came the fresh air, cool and fresh blowing in before the storm.  Then the sails began to fill; a gentle rustle at first, then the familiar whipping sound you’ve heard on every movie with a sail boat.  Then the storm front hit: a light warm rain falling in a strong wind.  The boat listed to the port side and we were off.  At our fastest point, which our captain insisted was racing speed, we couldn’t have been going more than 13-15 knots, but it was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve ever had.  Part of it was the newness of the experience, I am sure.  But there was an intrinsic joy in the experience, something so much different than the feel of traveling at nearly the same speed with the motor.

The sound was completely different, for one.  Even though the sound of the rain and the wind and the waves were washing over us continuously with a natural rhythm, there was a natural peace underriding all of it.  No cars, no planes, no ipods, no cell phones, no business chatter.  But laughter there was.  The sound of laughter surprised me, especially because it started with Abby, who had been laid low by a headache brought on by the stale air and slow pace earlier in the day.  But with each sense that was stimulated came that intrinsic joy.

Images from that time came in snapshots that have become ingrained in my mind:  Abby moving to the front of the boat so the waves could splash her feet and the wind could toss her hair around.  The boat keeling over so far that one might think it would roll, even though we knew it wouldn’t.  The different shades of blues and greens in the water and sky as the storm moved past.  I know that we were likely never further than 10 miles from shore, but there was a sense of racing out into the unknown as our boat picked up speed.  Even our captain, who practically had lived on the water for the last 40 years, left a snapshot in my head: him standing there, legs spread, standing tall, wrestling the boat… and he couldn’t hold back a boyish grin as the rain soaked through his dirty t-shirt and shorts.

It’s hard to describe the smells because the ocean is so new to me, but there was a salty freshness to the moment.  And if the morning had been characterized by air the felt like a living suffocation, this could only be called the freshest air you’ve ever smelled.

And the feeling! Being tossed by waves, moved by the wind, it was … well, here’s my point: I have this tendency to freak out when the wind leaves my sails.   Who knows exactly why God pulls it out sometimes?  Maybe it’s so I can get a rest, maybe it’s because I need to stop and think, and maybe it’s simply because His timing is not my timing.  But many times my first reaction when the wind dies is to check my gas cans, and even if I know I don’t have enough gas to get anywhere in particular, I start up my engine and start moving in some direction, just so I know I’m moving.

This is not a perfect analogy, but the reality of it for me is this: I do not have nearly as much control of my life as I would like to think.  I have a responsibility to stand at the helm of my boat and wrestle it as best I can when the strong winds come, and to stand by it when the winds disappear.  But as long as God is the one who

“makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses”

then I will choose the joy of the sails and wind that fills them, and forego the pride of my pitiful gas engine and it’s feeble attempts to control my destiny… I’m saying that life is good.

3 Responses to “The Observation Principle and My Condition”

  1. Ah. I mean . . . AHHH!

  2. What a vivid and thoughtful exposition of that spot I know I find myself in more than just occasionally. What a gift you have… Not just of articulation but of keeping your heart and mind sensitive and aware of the profound movement of life-changing moments through your life, as well as God’s intimate involvement in them! Well done, son.

  3. My daughter (a friend of a friend of yours) steered me to your pages – specifically this blog. Even though I know better, am somewhat seasoned in God, and have heard it before … sometimes it takes a stranger’s voice to make me listen. Your analogy was filled with the moment and gave me a much needed breath of fresh air. Thank you for writing (and letting others read your thoughts), it has impressed me more than I care to say right now. This I know, I will be content to wait for the winds of change!

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