After a couple of days away in Canberra at a senior chaplain’s conference I was pondering what we were seeking to achieve. The official answer is we were seeking to redefine the roles and functions of chaplains at different levels within the organisation. However, on a more personal level I have been struggling to understand what that means for me. Out of that confusion I was reminded of a story (adapted from story by Ron Mehl, in Stories for the Heart).
There once was an old sea captain in the days of the great sailing ships who, though uneducated, was able to stay out longer, lost fewer men and caught more fish than his competitors. Many wondered how he did it… and when asked the old sea captain would simply say “Oh, I just go up on the deck and listen to the wind and rigging. I get a drift of the sea, look up at the stars, and then set my course.”
Times were changing, and it was recognised that navigating like that was no longer appropriate, and so if he wanted to continue to be a captain he would have to go back to school and become a properly trained navigator. He was not happy about it, but agreed to take a year off to study and finally graduated as a certified navigator.
Having greatly missed the sea, he immediately took off on a long voyage. On the day of his return, everybody wanted to know whether he had used his new found knowledge with all those charts and computations… The old sea captain leaned back and thought for a while, and said “it was simple, whenever I wanted to know my location, I’d go into my cabin, get out my charts and tables, work the equations and set my course with scientific precision. Then I’d go up on deck and listen to the wind and the rigging, get the drift of the sea, look at the stars, and go back and correct the errors that I had made in computation.”
Planning the future of the Chaplain’s Branch is a bit like that. We can’t just continue to do it the way we always have, we have to do more training, grasp the implication of other changes in the organisation, cost effectiveness and the occupational analysis that has been done.
At the conference we scientifically analysed the data to formulate a logical way forward. However, the next step is to go up on deck, listen, get the drift of the real world where we work, look at the stars and maybe God will show us how we need to adjust our grand plans to get to where we need to be!
That applies not just to chaplains but to all of us who are struggling to navigate through life. Charting a course is not just about logic and scientific precision, they have their place but so does listening to your family and your own heart. Sometimes God himself speaks and that might take you in a whole new direction which you had not even considered!
Chaplain Ian S Whitley