Love, I’ve concluded, is like a boat. A sailing boat. It’s February, Valentine’s month, so yes, that type of love included – but wider too, the full huge reach of love.
We don’t have to step on board this boat. “Love woos – it does not compel”, as one writer puts it. But it draws us in, and if we are brave we step gingerly in, the
boat rocking unnervingly as we try to keep our balance. “Love isn't something that weak people do,” as the priest in feisty comedy series Fleabag said, “being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope.”
We feel hopelessly ill-equipped to sail this strange craft, to master the mysteries of its sails. But the wind stirs our hope afresh, whispers encouragement in our ear, and before long we find we are creaming over the waves to new and unfamiliar waters.
‘But my boat is old and battered’, we worry as we head into deeper water, ‘its holes will leak, we’ll surely sink.’ Yet we feel a rough hand being placed on ours: it’s the ship’s mechanic, who nods reassuringly at his toolbox. “I love you with every inch of my broken soul,” wrote appropriately named novelist Michelle Valentine, “I know it's a mess, but I'm giving you all the pieces."
We see others left on the shore, a disparate group and not our first choice of company to be closeted with on a boat. But we’re slowly getting the hang of things, and we know this boat isn’t just for us. So we steer round to pick them up. “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy,” said monk Thomas Merton.
The wind whips up, and the waves toss us perilously. We’re thrown overboard. ‘Why would love do this?’ we cry. But a lifebelt is cast for us, which we grab and are hauled aboard, thankful. We savour a calm spell: the sky is clear blue, and the waves lap gently now against the hull. Love is a good boat after all, we realise. “It is love that makes human beings beautiful”, wrote theologian Jurgen Moltmann.
‘God is Love,’ penned St John. God is therefore like a boat too: the wobbly bottom before we learn our balance; a trustworthiness that grows on us; a safety that belies life’s storms. Love, and God, can take us on adventures of which we’d never dreamed.
Rev David Carrington
Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury
The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905