Back in my college experience, I had the opportunity of taking an elective course in Cartography and Orienteering. I was and have always been fascinated by map reading and directional awareness. Because of an on-going interest at the time in aviation, a course that focused on such things was particularly interesting to me. I can still vividly recall one particular day of class. Our instructor led us out of the classroom building to a large 3-acre field on the edge of campus. His instructions were simple. “When I tell you to begin walking, I want you to walk in a straight line until I blow my whistle. When you hear the whistle, stop and return to the starting point.” So, at his command, we started walking in straight lines across the field. After ½ minute or so, he sounded the whistle and we returned to our original spots.
Next, our instructor handed out blindfolds to each member of the class. He told us to cover our eyes and we would repeat the same exercise as before. He shouted, “Walk!” and we began our trek across the field once more attempting to walk in straight lines. This time he let us walk for about 1 minute. He blew the whistle and told us to stop and remove our blindfolds. The result was shocking. None of our group had walked in a straight line! We found ourselves all over the field moving in all sorts of new directions. Personally, I was veering off to the left in about a 45-degree angle. The point was well made. When we lose focus, failing to keep our gaze on a fixed point, we very quickly will lose our way.
The same thing happens spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. As long as we have a focal point… a north star… a clear goal… then our lives seem to track in the right direction. It is when we lose our focus that our steps quickly diverge into misguided ways. The Scriptures offer their counsel. Jesus reminded His followers of maintaining a clear focus when He said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NIV) The writer of Hebrews suggests, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT) The Biblical message is clear, directional clarity is important.
The North Star in relationships could be defined by fidelity, trust, and commitment to sacred vows. Such directional clarity may well keep relationships focused and moving in the right direction, lest we stray and drift away from our best selves. In terms of emotional health, all of us would do well to keep our gaze on activities, involvements, and friendships that affirm, heal, and bring us joy. In terms of spirituality, it is the North Star of our fundamental beliefs, practices, and disciplines that keep us tracking well. Ignoring our spiritual moorings can lead us into very difficult and even lonely spaces.
But let’s take it a step further. My concern is over the ways in which we, as Christ-centered individuals, have allowed ourselves to walk across the landscape of our culture as though we are doing so with blindfolds obstructing our vision. We seem to have lost sight of the ethical and moral leadership of the Christ we claim to follow. Rather than allowing our lives to be defined and accented with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Fruit of the Spirit – Gal. 5:22-23), we bathe ourselves in the backwash of all that is evil and dehumanizing about our culture. We have allowed our new North Star to become selfishness, vitriolic speech, caustic rhetoric, angry opinions, and narrow-minded viewpoints. We have exchanged our “professed love of Christ,” for the world’s hatred, our “compassion” for a despicable selfishness, our “noble virtues” for greed and power. We continue to more narrowly define our version of “Christian ethics,” wrapping our thoughts into a perverted politic, a warped mind, and a depraved spirit. Instead of fixing our eyes on Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, we have allowed the voices of our culture to distract us, change us, and rob us of our Christ-like virtues. We have allowed such voices to enrage us, misinform us, and to manipulate us.
The problem is that when we lose our directional focus, so does the world around us. We have been called as “salt and light.” (Matthew 5:13-14 NASB) Our mission is to change the world, not be changed by it. Our goal is to be the voice of civility, reason, and goodness, not simply to add more angry static to the misguided cultural chorus that is all too often the loudest sound in the room. It is time to once again open our eyes and set our steps in the direction of that which is life-giving, transformative, and filled with grace. As Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NASB) It is time to embrace a new sense of faith within us, one that inclusively loves, compassionately gives, reflectively reasons, and graciously guides. As we walk forward into all that is before us, let us resolve to do so with a directional focus guided by an authentic and genuine faith in Christ, not one skewed by a dark and limited vision.