Reflections from the Boat – Philip Mounstephen

Today as I sat in the cockpit of the Rival Star, some 17 miles off the North Yorkshire coast, a bee alighted on my yellow jacket. I was rather surprised to see him so far from home. ‘Tough luck, chum,’ I thought to myself, ‘you’re not going to last long out here.’

But I looked at him over the next few minutes as we shared a solitary patch of sea (my crewmates were busy down below). And he seemed quite unconcerned with what I took to be his fate. In fact as he sunned himself on my jacket he took time and trouble to preen and clean himself, busily putting two of his six legs to good use. And a few seconds later off he flew, I know not where. But he was not, I suspect (and as I had thought) lost.

Others were busy that sunny, still afternoon. Gannets flew purposefully and beautifully overhead. A seal coughed, startlingly, behind me, studied me and went on his way. Puffins whirred past. And a lone minke whale arched its back, several times as it surfaced for fresh lungfuls of precious air.

‘Not all who wander are lost’ says Tolkein in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and our afternoon companions didn’t seem lost either. The Celtic monks in whose wake we sail ‘wandered for the love of God’. But they were not lost. They may not always have known where they went. But they always knew why they went: to make the good news of Jesus Christ known.

We live in a society which can be very focused on direction, but have little clue as to purpose. How much better to be confident in purpose even if the direction isn’t always clear. Both my friend the bee, and the Celtic monks, have much to teach us on that score.