Padre’s Corner: Finding your way in stormy waters

St. Brendan’s Chapel at Stadacona. CFB HALIFAX

Padre’s Corner: Finding your way in stormy waters

By Padre Capt Robin Major,
Chaplain, CFB Halifax

How do you find your way in stormy waters? The answer may seem simple, and yet, pulling apart the details can reveal a lesson for life. First and foremost, the goal is to keep the ship from sinking. This crisis management issue takes priority, while at the same time the greater goals and the greater good are still at play. While the course may change to weather the storm, the goal remains to return to the greater plan as soon as the crisis allows. While the unexpected happens and planned routes and destinations regularly change, there is always something greater and unchanging that remains, guiding the bigger picture. 

What is immutable in these kinds of situations? One way to consider this is to point to our core Canadian Armed Forces values – to respect the dignity of all persons, to serve Canada before self, and to obey and support lawful authority. The ship’s mission flows from these three values. From there comes the daily sailing schedule, the risk of storms that may come, and the adjustments that happen when they do. These higher guiding principles give form and foundation to our daily activities.

What can we learn from this about how you personally find your way through the stormy waters of life, those that all too often crash down on us and knock us off course? How can we cope with them? There are many useful ways; I will offer in this reflection one of them. Think of the ship that faces a storm and must change its planned route or destination. While this is inconvenient, if the greater good of our core CAF values and the mission at hand is kept intact, the mission remains solid. This same concept can apply to our own lives. If life is a raging sea, beyond fighting to keep the ship of your life afloat, and adapting your planned route or destination, there is a powerful orientation through your inner compass in keeping with your personal core values.

How then do we gain clarity as to what our core values are? If you have one, you might look to your spiritual or religious background for guidance. If that doesn’t apply to you, a quick way to reveal your core values is to look at who and what is important to you. 

For the question of who is important to you, just take out a piece of paper and answer it, making a list of important family, friends, associates, heroes, spiritual or religious figures, and even pets. Let’s also be sure to include yourself as important to you. There is no need to order them by level of importance and don’t worry about how accurate the list is as you can modify it anytime. Once the list is done, read it over and consider why you made each of these choices.

For the question of what is important to you, you already have a list of relationships that are important. So, relationships will be on the list. Digging a little deeper, you might also note the value of those relationships, things like love, friendship, affection, or commitment. You may also notice traits you admire which may be values of yours like dedication, hard-work, honesty, or selflessness. Beyond all these things, you may have other things you value, like your career or physical fitness. All these important people and things you’ve listed are a snapshot of where you stand in terms of core values. They are at the heart of your inner compass and will reveal themselves daily in your goals and actions.

How might these values help you in finding your way when things get stormy? Often we feel this way when someone or something important to us is in danger. Being able to see what really matters is a powerful way to focus the mind on the heart of the storm and to help to focus your efforts to navigate to safety. Try applying this to real-time struggles when you notice storm waters are upon you. Ask those two questions. What is important here? Who is important to me? Noting this in real-time can provide powerful and immediate course corrections, helping us to get back on track in living life according to our own personal values.