Steer a straight course…

I’ve suddenly realised – with utter clarity – that my default position is fear and despair.

I’m well aware that the roots of this rest in childhood damage, which I’m not going into here. Most of the time I rise above it, practising mindfulness, presence and positivity. Combatting division. But when I’m exhausted or over stressed, despair rises up from nowhere and bites me on the nose. These days Twitter can have me spiralling downwards within five minutes.

I care deeply about people and events, so I want to keep myself informed in order to act, but how to do that without going under? I suspect I am not alone.

In such moments I feel extremely thankful to have fallen in with Quakers. The insights of early Friends, like the gospel these echoed, are beacons of light and hope – of liberation from fear. George Fox’s “ocean of light”, which the darkness can never overcome, is a perennial comfort.

“The good ship Woodhouse” is one of my favourite Quaker stories. Separated from a convoy in mid Atlantic, Dutch privateers bearing down on his tiny craft, the ship’s Quaker master suddenly heard the words, “Steer a straight course. Mind nothing but me.” There wasn’t much choice, so he did. Suddenly the wind changed and the pirates were blown off course. The Woodhouse dropped off her cargo of Friends in the New World and returned home safely to tell the tale.

Steer a straight course. I think I can do that.


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