Caught in the Storm

The bridge was full of busy sailors rigging phone lines and relieving the at-sea watch. I would be helmsman for the at-sea cargo transfer. The supply ship was making its approach. The deck officer was barking more and more orders. “Helmsman, come right, steady up on course three five zero,” shouted the deck officer.

“Come right steady up on course three five zero—aye, aye, sir,” I acknowledged. As helmsman I had to tune in only on the deck officer’s voice. The helmsman must act on all rudder commands without hesitation and doubt. Only the deck officer was aware of all the possible dangers to the ship. He was kept informed from bow to stern as to the ship’s status. It was his job to dispatch orders for a successful transfer of cargo during this evolution.

Three five zero—I must keep her on course, I thought fervently. Why is it so difficult to steer? It was not this hard to steer when I practiced. The sea conditions are the same as before. I was puzzled. Why was it so difficult to concentrate? Later I realized that the surrounding noise and busyness were causing my difficulty. When I had practiced before, the bridge had been quiet and uncrowded. To steer accurately, I would have to center my thoughts on the compass and cut out all other distractions. The compass and the voice of the officer only will occupy my mind, I silently committed.

Finally the supply ship was alongside. The supply ship’s crewmen made ready to pass the lines to our ship. The supply ship was so close that I could hear orders given by its deck officer. I began to realize the seriousness of my duty. Just a degree off course would be disastrous. Finally the lines and pulleys were all rigged; the cargo transfer had begun.

My concentration was so intense that I did not notice the darkening of the sky. Suddenly the wind shifted and the seas began to boil. The rain beat down in tremendous volume, making it difficult to hear the deck officer’s voice. The ship began to pitch violently, riding up a swell slowly and then rushing down to meet the next wave with a loud clap. It became more difficult to steer. The ship was shifting off course more quickly. Each time the ship slammed through a swell, the hull would shudder from the added strain.

I became fearful. The ship seemed so vulnerable to the power of the sea. Can it take this kind of punishment? Will the rudder continue to meet the demand of the wheel’s turn? I questioned doubtfully. My confidence waning, I thought prayerfully. Surely someone can see my predicament and relieve me! My silent plea went unanswered. I knew that there was no one on board qualified to steer in these conditions. How can I get through this mess? What can I do? I wondered desperately. The pressure to stay on course was smashing me with each crash of the waves.

Suddenly I realized the compass would save me in this dilemma. I had to simply continue to concentrate on the compass and listen for orders. No storm would change the ability of the compass to point the way. Enlightened by this thought, I began to steer with all my might. I realized I could put all my trust in the compass. The compass is not given to mechanical failure. It has no power source to rely on. It points the way without ceasing. The compass would remain true. I could only hope the rudder and propeller would continue to function properly, but in the compass it was safe to put all of my trust. With new hope and confidence, I continued to steer beautifully straight.

The supply ship had finished unloading, and its crewmen were releasing the lines. Many of my shipmates were allowed to go below. I too wanted to relax and go below. Although the tension was over for most of the crew, it was not for me. The supply ship was still dangerously close alongside. My hands were beginning to shake with fatigue. I felt incredibly lonely now because there were only a few remaining crew members on the bridge.

Finally the order came, “Stand easy at the helm!” I thought I would faint. Slowly I stood up straight from my bent position. Looking around, I saw some of my best friends watching me. Their faces went from a deep concern to smiles of relief and joy. They knew it had been tough. Looking out, I saw the supply ship pulling away off the port bow. I noticed that the storm was not the gale I thought it was. The rain had stopped, and the clouds were breaking. The ship had passed through a stiff tropical squall. How could I have panicked so easily when everything I needed was right in front of me? I chastised myself. The captain put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Do you know there was not one time that I looked back at our ship’s wake and found a single bend in it? I had considered terminating the cargo transfer when the squall hit, but your course remained true. This enabled us to complete the transfer. Thanks!” A tremendous feeling of accomplishment filled me. Looking at the compass, I offered a silent thank-you.

Life in God’s kingdom is not without its guides and pointers. We are all entitled to the guidance of the Spirit if we live in such a way that we can tune in to it. The noise and confusion around us must not distract us from the small voice that would lead us.

The real power to conquer harmful distractions is found through Jesus Christ. Centering our lives on him will point the way for our return home. Like the compass, the Savior has been and always will be true. It is through him we can find direction through the storms of our lives.

It is in God and his Son only that we can put our full trust. Many lose the way home because they place their trust in the arm of flesh. Following false pointers will bring only frustration and deep dissatisfaction. If we can keep tuned to the voice of the Holy Ghost and keep our eyes centered on the compass, Jesus Christ, we, like the sailor, will experience unspeakable joy. The Father will greet us saying, “Your wake was straight. Enter thou in.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Mitchell Heinze