Christian Business International Newsletternovember date

Our Rudder

By Dan Schafer

Titanic going down

When the Titanic sailed across the Atlantic in 1912 there was great hubris both among the makers and owners back in England and among the ship's senior officers including the captain onboard. That was evidenced for one thing, in the number of life boats she carried. She had a capacity to handle 48 lifeboats but carried only 20. There were well over 2,000 passengers and crew onboard with available lifeboats having a capacity for 1,178 people -- about half what would be needed, and then, even when the disaster had taken place and they began loading lifeboats, many of them were launched before they were loaded to capacity.

The collision with the iceberg no doubt could have been avoided if the ship were travelling at a judicious speed, but it seemed that everyone who could do anything about it was convinced that the ship was too invincible to be sunk by an iceberg -- and the name Titanic has become a byword for that hubris and the disaster that ensued.

Olympic stern and rudder

The rudder of the Olympic, the identical twin sister ship of the Titanic.

In the event, the huge rudder, 78 feet by 15 feet, 100 tons in weight, in response to the captain's command was maneuvered by its own steam engine to change the course of the ship. But it was too late. Her 21 knots (24 mph, 39 km/h), her tremendous size, and her powerful inertia were too much to avoid the iceberg which tore the seams of too many panels in her starboard side. The rest of the disaster we all know.

In our last article we discussed our own rudder -- that is in many cases, our lack of one -- being "rudderless".

What determines the direction of our lives? Is it our ambition, our determination to get to the top in our field? Is it to meet and marry our ideal life mate? Is it to make our parents or our peers proud of our accomplishments? Is it to make full use of our talents?

Stop sign

Goals like those are not essentially wrong. If our lives are to count for anything we need to have goals. But what we don't want to happen is to be so taken up by our goals that we don't see the warning signals and end up like the Titanic where we are beyond our rudder's ability to avoid the disaster. We all know of someone whose marriage fell apart because they were too obsessed with their own ambitions, or someone whose health failed because they didn't heed the warning signs that their life style was producing.

When we think of a rudder for our lives, that rudder really needs to be in the control of someone who sees the big picture, someone who can foresee where our course of action is going to lead. Perhaps we think, "Yes, it would be nice to have some guidance like that."

Well, in fact you, your ship, were designed with a rudder. Deep inside us each of us there is a rudder called conscience. That rudder is amazingly connected to something far outside ourselves. In fact, the only real way to explain it is to say that it must be connected to a "someone", because it is so infallible and so difficult to account for any other way.

Our analogy with the ship's rudder gets into a little trouble here, because it only really works when we allow the rudder, or the one in control of the rudder to actually steer the ship. And that is where we miss it. That is where we bear down on the iceberg without allowing the one who is trying to nudge the rudder in order to miss the iceberg to actually do the nudging.

Man listening

So conscience can be our rudder as long as we listen to it. And that is actually the beginning of our lives actually turning out the way the One who made us planned. I think we can agree that if there is someone who planned your life, he probably knows the whole way through. And in some way, all we really need to do is keep in tune with him, put our whole heart and energy into this way and enjoy the ride. Of course there are always decisions we need to make, but when we really desire to be guided by our rudder, we make the best decisions we can and trust that he will nudge us if we are missing his highest.

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