Faith Matters - True Compass

As usual, I had convinced myself that what I wanted was also what I needed: a tool for a task and a solution to a problem. I searched the internet to evaluate a number of possible choices.  I placed my selection on the family Christmas wish list, a worthwhile convention designed to reduce the number and variety of items destined for the church rummage sale. There are fewer surprises, but also fewer exchanges.

What I really and truly need is an auto compass. As I hesitate at two diverging roads it would be so useful to know the direction my choice will carry me. A compass would be a helpful Christmas gift, something that would get regular use and would get me to where I want to go. Typical of my gender, I prefer to arrive at my destination by obstinate determination rather than by any assistance from inquiry. Refusing to ask is another one of the signs of stubborn and prodigal independence.

Nesting inside the festive gift-wrap, the wish-list compass is packaged in silver, gray and black. It was manufactured in China. On the windshield, triune suction cups will anchor a handsome addition to my instrumentation, giving me the travel confidence I lack on unmarked roads. My first task, however, is to remove the instruction manual from the package and learn what I need to know about installation.

In many more languages than I can read, I am given far more information than I can comprehend about where to snake various wires and sensors: altimeter, barometer, inside temperature, outside temperature, time, travel time, trip heading, photosensitive backlight and, of course, a compass. I check to see if there is a transporter to simply beam me to my destination. I discover that I must calibrate the instrument by informing it of the latitude and longitude of my home base. I start to imagine adding that tool to another wish list.

All I wanted was something to tell me if I was headed in the right direction: north, south, east or west. Will this particular blacktop take me where I need to go? The nuances of altitude, barometric pressure, temperatures, time and heading could be interesting information tidbits, I suppose, but none of them will take away my ignorance at the crossroad. Multiple wires, sensors, buttons and an arcane multilingual manual of instructions bemuse me. I become frozen into immobility just pondering the installation. I got what I wanted but it was not what I needed. All I wanted was something to tell me which way to go.

One of the things that Epiphany always suggests to me is direction. Ever since Matthew remembered that some unnamed astrologers from the East found their way to Bethlehem, it has been a question of direction. Not reluctant to ask for guidance, these seekers pursue a truth so profound that they must leave home to find it. At the end of the day they are lightened by the gifts they leave behind, they are wise enough to heed their dreams, and they choose an alternate route to their starting place. Starlight on their shoulders, they go home by another way. I wonder if they found that home had changed since they left.  When you find what you have been seeking, home may not be quite the same again.

Standing at the head of the New Year, a new decade, and a new journal page looking back at me, I glance both ways. In this season of the less-than-useful compass, still confusing what I need with what I want, I ponder the direction in which I have been traveling all this time. A star would help. On this road a simple compass would be a blessing.

The road always offers twists and turns, cul-de-sacs, and missing route signs. I still have the map in hand, although it is not without its ambiguities. I review my life-posts to see how far I have come from where I started. There has never been, and there never will be, any marvel of technology to release me from my choices.

What I do have are some fellow travelers who are headed in the same direction that I am. I have a few folks who help carry my backpack when it gets too heavy for me, some who tell me when it appears that I have taken a detour to the left or the right, and some who inspire me with their faith, hope and love. We worship, we pray and we work together. I am grateful that I am not traveling alone. There is no way I could make this trip by myself. My traveling companions point me to the true compass.

I carefully re-package the unused auto compass in its original silver, gray and black plastic shell. Gift in hand, I visit the giver and speak my thanks for the thoughtfulness and generosity. I apologize for the trouble to which I have put him. I ask if he would be so kind as to return it for me. I tell him that what I needed was much less than I wanted. He offers me a knowing smile.

God’s peace.

Chuck Johns

By: Reverend Chuck Johns On 1/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters