In a bid to avoid joining the teenagers on a (frankly terrifying) high ropes course, I spent a morning of our UK summer doing a family orienteering course in the woods with our youngest. The idea is that you get given a map with little red boxes on it marking the location of marker posts, decide on the quickest route between all the posts and then race against the clock to visit each one and find your way back to the start.
“This is going to be easy”, I thought, “after all I’m a Girl Guide Leader – I can do tents, campfires, the great outdoors and coating things in glitter – a little bit of map-reading isn’t going to be a problem”.
Katie and I set off with great enthusiasm. A short but frustrating while later I realised that although my map reading is pretty good, my ability to walk in a straight line is sadly lacking. I could line up the blue lines on the map with the north-pointing needle on the compass, point confidently in the direction of the next little red box and then head off (child now trailing behind). But then somehow I’d slowly veer off, distracted by the presence of an well-worn path or the sight of a family heading purposefully in another direction, and once again we’d find the wrong post, or no post at all.
What I needed to do was keep checking that the map we were following was lined up with the needle on the compass, and keep checking that we were walking in right direction. Eventually I put the map in a clear plastic bag (this was England in the summer, remember) and held it out flat in front of me with the compass on it.
We made it home.
I’ve thought about it quite a bit since, this need to be continually checking I’m on the right path, continually lining myself up with the direction I’m being called in.
It reminds me of these verses:
… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV
Running the race of life isn’t just about keeping going, it’s also about staying true to the path marked out and continually checking in with Jesus to make sure we haven’t wavered off. It’s about being sure we’re running our race, not someone else’s; about going the way we’re called, not the way that looks easiest and it’s about keeping our eyes on the one who went first and has already completed the race.
For me this is about spending time looking at Jesus in the morning, worshipping him and letting him bring all of the stuff of my life into perspective; and then about checking in throughout the day, inviting the Holy Spirit into each situation and asking for advice: ‘Which of these things is most important?’, ‘How should I respond to that?’, ‘What would be the wise thing to do right now?’, ‘What do I need to do today?’ …. What does it look like for you?
P. S. I suspect as well that it helps to remember that when it comes to the life-race, even if you do go a little bit off course, there’s always a way back. It probably doesn’t matter which order you visit each post in, only that you keep asking Jesus, “which way should I go next?”, and that you make it home in the end.