[…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.]
Being spiritually unsure is likened to a small ship, tumbling and turning in a vast ocean, a huge and murky expanse that is always changing. The metaphor gives a sense that the ship constantly changes direction, and has no constant pace. There is a feeling of randomness and powerlessness; the ship is being moved by external and physical forces, pushed around by the slapping waves, controlled by an unresponsive and unmerciful power.
In the novel Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, the author includes this section about two of his main characters as they struggle with the consequences of their adultery. Tolstoy describes the effect of interaction between the couple and the woman’s son, who is unsure about their relationship:
It provoked in Vronsky and Anna a feeling like that of a mariner who can see by his compass that the direction in which he is swiftly moving diverges widely from his proper course, but that he is powerless to stop the movement which every moment takes him further and further from the right direction, and that to admit the deviation to himself is the same as admitting disaster.
This child with his naïve outlook on life was the compass which showed them the degree of their departure from what they knew but did not want to know (186).
These characters in Tolstoy’s novel, like the drifting ship, lack true direction. There is hesitation, doubt, and dependency on things other than a reliable compass. Spiritually, it’s so easy to get lost, to backtrack, to lose ground, to wander.
Tolstoy writes that Anna and Vronsky “knew but did not want to know.” Little by little, they let themselves be deceived. Ephesians 4:14 describes a constant battle to find and maintain a grasp on the truth, a continuous struggle for discernment.
In Martin Eden, a book by Jack London, the author writes, “He could not express what he felt, and he likened himself to a sailor, in a strange ship, on a dark night, groping about in the unfamiliar running rigging” (10). Without God, we don’t know the truth, we don’t even know ourselves, or our own intentions. Edith Wharton wrote, “We live in our own souls as in an unmapped region, a few acres of which we have cleared for our habitation” (The Touchstone). Without God there is nothing to count on, nothing to which we may anchor ourselves.
But the verse begins, “…so that we may no longer be children…” The book discusses spiritual gifts, and how putting them to use unites us in accomplishing the mission of God. Through this, we are no longer isolated ships, but each a piece in the strong and steady family of God’s church, protected and strengthened by each other and by the promises of God. Through diligently seeking discernment within God’s word, we work constantly with a steady pace, guided on a true course by the Holy Spirit. We are continually, “building up the body of Christ,until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”