Directionally Challenged?

By Marcy Barthelette

Pay attention to how you use today—so you stay the course to where you are destined to go.

Christine Caine, Unshakable

It’s an incredible spring day in the Ozarks and we decide it’s perfect weather for a hike, not too cool but not too warm yet. We grab a daypack, add some sandwiches and extra water, a hat and sunscreen, a compass, and maybe an extra pair of socks in case we slip in a still very cool stream. Wet socks develop painful blisters. We head for a trail we hiked many years ago, a pair of adventurers hoping to enjoy some great views, catch a glimpse of wildlife here and there, but not too wild, and get some nice shots of “wild” flowers just showing their pretty faces. Oh yes, there is also a waterfall at the halfway point and it should be running nicely due to a wet spring.

We reach our trailhead and are a bit surprised to see that the trail is listed as strenuous in places. We don’t recall that being the case when last we hiked it but we were just a few years younger then. To make matters worse, no trail maps are available. Following a few minutes of a brief discussion, we convince ourselves that we are up for the challenge and head out on the trail.

An hour or so into the hike that was fraught with mud, potholes, roots, boulders, and a nearly obliterated trail, we began to understand the warning. But being the seasoned hikers we are, we persevere. Another hour passes, the trail still has us guessing and we haven’t come to the waterfall. We begin to wonder if we took a wrong turn and I dig for the compass, but it’s nowhere to be found. I turn the pack inside out but no compass appears. This is no time to panic. Ken spent thirty years in Boy Scouts, three more traveling all over Europe, and has had lots of orienteering practice. He’s adept at reading sun and shadows as well as having an amazing sense of direction. He will get us out of this predicament even if that means backtracking to the trailhead.

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to note that while Ken and I are quite comfortable finding our way through a forest of trees or a tangle of boulders, city roadways create a nightmare of confusion for us. I can’t count the times when we have been completely turned around when attempting to traverse a network of roads designed and built to facilitate ease of travel. There are too many landmarks when we don’t want them and not enough road signs when we do. Often the structures that surround us are too tall to allow a clear view of the sun thus creating one big shadow. Maps are never up to date with highway construction, even the electronic versions. And, yes, we do have GPS but it sometimes errs as well, or, perhaps it’s operator error. Suffice to say, we try to circumnavigate cities as often as possible.

Truth be told, our lives are certainly in need of direction too. If we’ve chosen well, the Bible will serve as our compass, pointing us in the right direction, toward Jesus, who is our true north.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Oh, and that waterfall we were searching for. We began to hear it just a few twists and turns from that point where we doubted our directional skills. It certainly measured up to our hopes. Water cascaded with reckless abandon over a succession of falls leaving us breathless. And for Ken, it was rather breathtaking when he slipped on a moss-covered rock and nearly fell over the falls while straining to get his best photograph. With a prayer of gratitude that Ken was able to proceed and a leisurely lunch with our feet in the cool clear water above the falls (the temperature reached 80+ on our perfect spring day), we reluctantly decided it was time to head on down the trail. The second half was much better marked but no less tricky, and after about five hours, we arrived back at the trailhead, very tired and sporting a few new bruises. While satisfied that we’d been able to make the trip, we learned something about our physical limitations and will stick to less strenuous trails in the future. And we’ll remember to double-check our supplies and to coordinate all our adventures with the one who steadfastly watches over us and provides excellent directions.

Lord, show me how I need to adjust my course toward You today and keep my focus on living for you in the now.

 Christine Caine, Unshakable

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