Navigating Waterways (and Life) – By MaryD


Many years ago, I went on a houseboat trip with my sister and niece along the Trent-Severn Waterway in Ontario, Canada. We were quite novice at doing something like this.  The house boat rental owner recommended that one of us focus on operating the boat and one of us focus on tending the lines to navigate through the locks we would encounter. My sister took the helm and I took the lines.  My niece was 8 or 9 at the time and she also learned how to help manage the lines.  The owner took us out on the water that afternoon.  He gave us instructions.  He let us practice a little to get the hang of things.  Then, we returned to spend the night docked at the rental place and “settle in” to our accommodations.

As we set out the next morning on our adventure, it took a little time to get the feel of handling the boat and navigating the waters.  Mind you, the waterway is fairly narrow, so it isn’t too difficult to navigate.  But, there are times when all you see is water and there are rocks and shallow places to avoid.  I had learned to read nautical charts (maps for water) with my dad when we went boating in Lake St. Clair, Anchor Bay, and the Channels.  I found a set of charts on board and took on the role of navigator.  The nautical chart showed water depths, headings, water hazards, and various buoys and beacons that we should look for along our route.  

My niece soon caught on to watching for the markers.  She could often be found perched at the front of the boat scanning the water with her eyes or her binoculars in search of the next marker on our route.  Sometimes the markers were close together and not long after we passed one, we would spot the next.  Sometimes the markers were far apart and it would be quite a while before we spotted the next one.  Of course, we were always on the lookout for rocks and shoals and any other “hazards” that we needed to avoid.

It was during some of these longer stretches, when we hadn’t seen the next marker that I would find myself becoming anxious. Did I read the chart right?  Did we veer too far in one direction or the other and become “off course”? Would we make it to the next lock in time to go through or would we be delayed?  Would we find a place to dock for the night?  

Eventually, the marker we were looking for would appear. Why did I doubt?  Sometimes we needed to adjust our course.  Sometimes, we needed to adjust our schedule.  We always found a safe place to dock for the night.  God was with us.  I trusted He would keep us safe.

Years afterward, I realized that navigating the Waterway and searching for those markers was very much like “navigating” through life.  We need to place our faith and trust in God.  He gives us instruction.  He equips us with what we need.  He gives us freedom to set our course.  He places markers for us to follow.  We need to watch for them.  Sometimes there are hazards.  We need to watch out for those too.  Sometimes we may feel anxious.  Sometimes we may need to adjust our course.  Always, God is with us.  We need to stay focused on Him and TRUST HIM!

Peace be with you, MaryD