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Don't tack too soon

May 5, 1986



ONE summer day my father-in-law and I had to sail to a small harbor about seven miles across the bay from where we were staying. The weather was beautiful. The wind was just right for us to enjoy a lively, but not a dangerous, sail. It was my turn at the helm, and I was aware that we would soon have to change course slightly. We were headed almost directly into the wind, and I wanted to be able to sail to the harbor without tacking too many more times. As I looked toward our destination it seemed to me that it was just about time to tack. My father-in-law was carefully watching the situation, too. He observed the wind direction, the action of the waves, and our distance from the harbor. I could tell that he was giving our situation an experienced appraisal. Then he said: ``A lot of sailors get impatient. Don't tack too soon.''

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I knew what he meant. If we turned too soon, we might have to change course several times. That meant that in the long run we would lose time getting back. I waited a bit longer, stayed on course, and then came about later than I had originally planned. Consequently, we were able to sail directly to the harbor by tacking only once. Waiting saved us time.

A number of summers have come and gone since then. But I haven't forgotten the implications of ``Don't tack too soon.'' Since that day we had together on the water I've had many chances to use this advice in a spiritual context.

As a practicing Christian I have paused longer in prayer before making important decisions. I have seen the value of turning to God, divine Mind, to see that in truth He has made man and has made him perfect and whole. This spiritual understanding has replaced fearful thoughts of sickness or discouragement and brought healing. Perhaps most important, I'm realizing more than ever that human action, unsupported by a spiritual basis for making decisions, is weak. Things might have to be done again. We could find ourselves anxiously tacking back and forth, wasting time in reaching our destination.

It's not that decisions can't be made quickly when necessary. But clear thinking based on the spiritual understanding of God's constant power and love really helps. We can all develop the habit of turning first to the one Mind in every situation facing us. I have found that when prayer precedes action instead of following it, that action is much more harmonious. The divine influence on our thinking has an uplifting, healing effect.

Christ Jesus' actions always had a prayerful basis. There's no evidence that he was diverted by worldly thinking. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that legitimate human needs such as food and clothing, and even the day's events, will be properly cared for as we turn to God first, wholeheartedly: ``Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.''1

After my sailing experience I could see the value of seeking God's help before taking subsequent steps. There's danger in jumping the gun when we could well be patient and wait for God's direction. It never hurts to make sure we're following God instead of trying to tell Him what to do.

Human will and unenlightened decisionmaking nearly always get us into trouble. With wisdom flowing from spiritual insight, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``The disobedient make their moves before God makes His, or make them too late to follow Him. Be sure that God directs your way; then, hasten to follow under every circumstance.''2

Disregarding the inspiration that comes from God or willfully forging ahead can be replaced by the practical spiritual understanding that God is in perfect control of His creation, that in truth we're His spiritual offspring under His perfect jurisdiction. Prayer that acknowledges God's absolute supremacy and the wisdom of His government will enable us to feel His safety and peace--and experience them.

1Matthew 6:33. 2Miscellaneous Writings, p. 117. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6