There is another way for a ship to be guided into a harbor besides being pulled by a tugboat. This analogy might be even more relevant to our spiritual lives. Not only to our final journey of life but for guidance in all of life's seasons when we may be sailing through unfamiliar waters.
When navigating the Portland seaport 100 miles inland from the sea, harbor pilots are needed to maneuver large ocean vessels all the way in. These men are specialists on the river channel. By prior arrangement the pilot meets the ocean vessel well beyond the river bar and he is taken on board directly to the pilothouse of the ship.
From the moment of his arrival, the safety of the vessel is in the hands of this specialist. He has spent his life on this river and knows every sandbar, shallow shoal, and treacherous current. He can guarantee safe passage from the ocean all the way to a safe docking in Portland. He is well respected, highly paid, and much sought after. During busy seasons ships are willing to lie at anchor in the ocean awaiting their turn for this expert.
Yet this highly specialized navigator never touches the wheel of the ship and never issues an order to the engine room. He just stands behind the captain informing him what to do and what orders to issue and what necessary corrections to make in the ship's course. Although he is essential to the safety of the ship, he does not steer the ship. At any point the captain can refuse to follow his orders. The ultimate decision is the captain's, and the consequences of those decisions rest upon his shoulders.
Similarly, the Holy Spirit does not enter our life to take its control out of our hands. He enters at our request as a highly specialized Guide through waters and courses well known to Him but totally new to us. He stands beside us in the control room of our life, our spirit, (Romans 8:9-17) and faithfully, but ever so gently, instructs us in the way we should go.
The issuing of the commands in our life is left up to us. “Walking in the Spirit” as the Scripture tells us to do (Galatians 5:16 and 25; Romans 8:4) means accepting the Spirit's guidance, His suggestions, and His instructions. He may speak ever so firmly, but He will never violate the free will with which God has endowed us. He doesn't command our life through force. We must invite His guidance. (Psalm 25: 4, 5, 8-15)
Dear Indwelling Holy Spirit, come into the control room of my spirit. Stay with me to guide me through the new and unfamiliar waters of my life so that the breakers will not break me or cause me to fear. I want to be sensitive to Your gentle whispers to keep me on course and malleable to Your instructions as You guide me to safe harbor.