When I was in the Boy Scouts we learned a lot about navigation… how to read different kinds of maps, how to draw a map, discern a course, judge distances in the wilderness… it’s all really useful stuff to know, and would come in pretty handy if you were ever stranded or lost and had to get yourself out… as long as you had a map, and a working compass that is. Fortunately the Boy Scouts go a step farther and teach you what to do if you don’t happen to have such luxuries. All it takes is a little observation and understanding of nature. You can figure out not only what time it is or which way is north, but also where on the globe you happen to be, just by looking around and using some simple math. In the 16th century we figured out the circumference of the entire Earth using shadows and math… There are constants in nature that can tell you quite a lot, and it’s sad that Bear Grylls never talks about it when he’s crawling down off a mountain… probably because it requires you to stop and sit down, think and be patient… and that doesn’t make for exciting TV.
The sun moves across the sky in a very particular way, that we can measure and predict with accuracy down to the second and within 1/10 of a degree. Most people don’t realize that the stars actually move as well, it takes a little more patience and science, but the stars have been guiding men for eons, when all their maps were soaked, every compass had failed and there was nothing to see but waves, a ship with a smart man at the helm could set a course, hold it, and sail anywhere she pleased. The study of the stars even caused ancient man to build everything from Stonehenge to the pyramids. Even something as simple as a wrist watch can be the foundation for figuring out where you are and where you need to go… all it takes is patience.
Toward the end of the 18th century we started building metal ships, which caused a problem for fancy compasses that showed magnetic north, because the metal ships screwed up the magnetic fields. So even today, in the age of satellite GPS, sailors are taught to navigate by the stars. For all our technology we still need to open our eyes and be patient if we want to find our way.
We need to be still and know… look for the clues and be discerning.
Sometimes in life we find ourselves off the map in other ways… lost, maybe just confused or turned around. It’s important that we don’t just start running, like Bear would, but that we stop, sit still with our eyes open and wait for the answers to come to us. Breathe deep. In the stillness we can see the sun set and the stars begin to spin across the darkening sky… the one that doesn’t spin shows us which way is north… but first we have to be willing to be still and wait… and pay attention.
In Psalm 46 God says “be still and know that I am God and I will be exalted among the nations, exalted in all the Earth.” When life seems to get turned around, when the maps are soaked and the compass has failed, we can still find our way home… by being still…. by taking a deep breath and watching as the glory of God emerges through the noise, like the starfield growing more brilliant as the blue fades to black.
Have you been feeling rushed? maybe lost or turned around? Looking for your path without a map? Have all your landmarks vanished and left you with nothing but churning waves? Take some time today and sit down, be still, and wait for the glory to break through the noise… wait for the direction to be shown… it’s there, you just need to have patience and perspective… and take the time to do the math.
Learn to listen for answers in the silence like a sailor sees maps in the sky… it takes time, and commitment… it takes pace and confidence…
Like The Frames said, take the sinking ship and point it home, we’ve still got time. The course is the most important part… as long as your course is set, getting home is easy… you’ll be amazed at how far you can go as long as you’re going the right way!
I don’t know about any of you, but I would say that today I am sitting down and watching the first stars start to twinkle… I’m trying to slow myself down and watch for the glory…