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Teenager Distances Himself from Family at Embarrassing Moment

When I was 13, my dad had the brilliant idea to take sailing lessons. I'm not sure where this idea came from. Our only previous sailing experience had been the log ride at Great America. Nonetheless, my dad, my brother, two cousins, and I headed out to Chicago's Belmont Harbor to spend a few days learning to sail with an instructor.

I felt bad for that instructor and what he put up with. Whatever we paid him, it wasn't enough. My brother and cousins goofed off most of the time, and I spent most of those three days bent over the side of the sailboat, puking into Lake Michigan.

At the end of the three days, after learning all the basics, we were given a final exam. We were to navigate the sailboat out of the harbor, into the lake, and back to the harbor. We were supposed to do all of this alone. No instructor. Just my dad and four teenagers. Even as a 13-year-old I knew this was not a good idea. There was no way I was getting into that boat with just my dad. The instructor may as well have told us to fly a 747. This was a disaster waiting to happen.

Though my dad was full of confidence, I refused to get in the boat. They ridiculed me for not coming, and then they shoved off. The instructor and I then watched in horror from the shore as the sailboat bounced around Belmont Harbor like a floating pinball. They seemed magnetically attracted to every stationary object in the harbor. They hit docks, buoys, other boats. My dad stood at the rudder maintaining a façade of control, calmly ordering the others to trim the sails as if the chaos in the harbor was perfectly normal. People on other boats were terrified they would be the next vessel torpedoed by my dad. Meanwhile, those watching them from shore were laughing. I stood by pretending I had no idea who those idiots in the sailboat were. I just laughed along with everyone else. In the end they didn't even make it out of the harbor. I don't think my dad will ever show his face around Belmont Harbor again.

We can be very fickle about community, can't we? When things are good, we're all too eager to jump into the boat and join the fun. But when things turn ugly, we find ourselves on the shore, pointing and laughing or pretending not to even know those crazy people in the boat. Sometimes, no matter how close or committed we feel to our community, we're tempted to abandon ship ….

When my dad first told me about taking sailing lessons together, I was really excited. To be honest, I had a lot of fun those first few days with everyone. But at the first sign of trouble, I was out of there. I jumped ship and found myself standing on the shore, pointing and laughing at "those people." "Those terrible sailors!" I said. "What a disaster they've caused! Can you believe what they've done?" I was happy to include myself in the fun, but I quickly distanced myself from the mess.

The same tendency is found among God's people. When things are going well, we are eager to join in the blessings of the church. When things are going well, we are happy to own the good gifts of God. When things are going well, we want to claim God's promises and blessings as our own. But we quickly distance ourselves from what we'd rather not claim—like sin or conflict or pain. We abandon ship and stand on the shore in disgust. "Look at those terrible sinners! What a mess they've caused! I'm sure glad I'm not part of that fiasco!"

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