Points to Ponder: If You're Lost (or not), Find True North
Points to Ponder
If You're Lost (or not), Find True North
I carry a compass when I take long bicycle rides. Several years ago, I'd ridden along some winding country road that brought me to a three-pronged fork; three options that went into three different directions. Being high-noon, I could not tell which direction any of them would take me. With compass in hand, I located true north, thereby orienting myself and the options before me. I could choose a path.
The thing about choosing a path is that you have to reject the others options. Sometimes you know full well which way not to go. But as you leave behind those other possibilities, sometimes you reflect on what might have been. You'll never really know, because that road is now closed. And at times you'll wonder (no matter how convinced you still are): did I do the right thing? What might have happened if . . . ?
Someone has said that a person is the sum total of all the decisions (choices) he or she has made in life. You can look back at the path you have taken and can see key turning points. Some were poor judgment calls; others were wisely considered and well-timed. Sometimes (perhaps most of the time) you have made decisions without really thinking through the consequences, or even realizing that there would be consequences. And sometimes, you realize in retrospect that it was a relatively minor decision that put you on the major highway which became the journey you've been living: your life.
My first real job as a college student was in a restaurant. It was there that I met the one whom I would marry. After graduation in 1983, with unemployment being so high and jobs scarce, I grabbed the first job I could get: health club sales. That job became my career, taught me valuable self-care and self-discipline techniques. Though I never liked being in sales, I had the best training. This helped me discover my abilities as a teacher and communicator (useful in pastoral care). I came to understand the spiritual development of a person by working with the physical development and fitness of people.
Everything I was doing would lead me to something else. One place served as the stepping stone to the next place, sometimes without knowing there was a next place up ahead.
The old saying goes: "One door closes, another door opens." That may offer some consolation after an unexpected loss. But I have wondered: does it always happen in that order? Does a door have to close on one thing before the door opens to the next thing? Is there sometimes a delay in between. Suppose a door has opened before you, but the one that needs to close is still open? Do you leave before you go - of do you go before you leave?
It helps to have a reliable moral compass, one which readily shows you where you are even if every other indicator around will not. If you know where "true north' is, then every other option and opportunity sits before you in a discernable position. Meaning what?
It is never clear which option is perfect, or even what each outcome would be; but if you are clear about your own position, you can place the options in proper perspective.
For instance, I did not want to work in a restaurant. But my moral compass tells me: your name goes on the work you do. Lousy work equals a lousy name. The axiom made a dull job more fun and gave me a solid reference for future jobs.
Likewise, I never wanted to be in sales, yet for about ten years - a full DECADE - I was in sales jobs. I kept reading and listening to tapes, and learning from others how to be better at this work I did not like. Again, the moral compass pointed me to true north. Scripture says it well:
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might . . ." (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24).
As I worked hard, even in jobs I did not like, I found that it developed my character and trained me in perseverance. When I finally achieved a level of security, decent income, and good benefits, I was able to see the trap these things can set.
Options arose. The risks meant leaving these things I had worked hard for. Again I pull out the compass and see that true north is not in those other directions; it is the position from which I can properly see those directions and the paths toward which they point.
Every path we take leads to a crossroads eventually. Options present themselves. Denying some to pursue others is necessary. Even doing nothing is a choice. But if you don't regularly check your compass for true north, you may find yourself lost along the way. You may be on a path that feels wrong but you don't know why. Or you may mistakenly make a wrong turn because you're flying by the seat of your pants instead of pulling out the compass from your pants pocket.
Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God . . ." (Matthew 6:33), the rule and standard of God. When you decide to do that, then open your Bible and your heart; you will find your true north.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com