Help for the Journey
“I considered my ways, and turned my feet to your testimonies…” (Psalm 119:59)
My local Target recently re-arranged the layout of every department. Since the adjustment, I feel like I cannot find anything at all! A shopping trip that used to take only 20-30 minutes has now become a longer ordeal. Usually, a longer shopping spree at Target would not be a bad thing. However, when I feel disoriented the entire time I am shopping, I begin to feel a bit lost, out of place, and frustrated. I am not sure what section I am in, where it begins, or where it ends. The shampoo is no longer where it was before, and I find myself walking up and down the same aisles over and over again but still feeling like I’m going crazy. More times than I would like to admit, I end up wandering around, because I honestly can’t think straight under those conditions, which leaves me feeling a bit aimless and anxious. I usually leave the store flustered, hungry, late, and without having completed my shopping list.
Have you ever heard the phrase “I just need to get my bearings”? If not, let me explain: basically, it is used when someone is trying to figure out where they are and what they need to be doing in a particular situation. “Bearings” are directional terms when using a compass. “Getting a bearing” can refer to two unique things: (1) finding where you are, and (2) determining which direction you need to go.
Life is like my neighborhood Target: it gets whacky sometimes and changes large and small can affect how we function. Sometimes, we forget our bearings…we aren’t sure where we are. We can lose our purpose or forget the reason we are here, what we are looking for, and where we are heading.
As Christians, we know what we are supposed to be aiming for: “The greatest commandment is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:30&31). The trouble is, we can become so disoriented by Life that we don’t know how to get there. And, even if we did know which direction to go, we may not know from where we are starting. We need both “bearings” to make it.
If we don’t know where we are standing, we don’t know which way to go. This process of inspecting ourselves takes commitment and integrity, and it is an important first step to engage in before we start and continue on our way through Life. Knowing who we are and what we aren’t are important guiderails for engaging a very confusing world. In this process of considering our ways, we test and solidify our motives, values, desires, emotions, and beliefs. We find, more fully, where the real, true self lies and what it is made of. We can know with certainty where we stand.
“Know thyself” has become a trite cliché in our world today. But, David tells us that this self-inspection is the process by which he directed his course towards God’s ways. It is true: we have to know where we are so we can know which way we should go. When our motives are selfish, we can re-orient ourselves towards the testimonies of God’s Word and choose instead to be unselfish. When we realize our thinking patterns are laced with bitterness, we can renew our mind in God’s Word, so we can begin to heal from the wounds that fester with pain and anger. God's Word is the "light for our path" - it directs who, how, what, when, and why we are to be and behave in this world. It provides all that we need to adjust the course so that we arrive at our desired destination.
If you are feeling a bit stuck, turned-around, or generally disoriented on this journey, I would encourage you to find out where are – “get your bearings” – by considering your ways. Search through your heart, mind, soul, and the things you consider your strengths. Inspect these areas with committed honesty to yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to come along with you and help you discern truth and re-align with God's Word. Maybe start by answering some of these questions:
Why did I do that?
How did that make me feel?
What is my motive?
What did I expect?
Why did that hurt my feelings?
Am I being completely honest with myself, God, and others?
Were my actions consistent with what I say I believe?
Was I prompted by love or something else?
Do I really believe what I said?
Why am I so jealous? What is it I desire that I don’t have?
Why am I unhappy/sad/angry/excited?
How much of what I am feeling related to my ego and pride?
Am I interested in only elevating myself?
Do not try to rush through…really take the time to discover where you truly are, so you can continue your journey towards an even more authentic, Christ-like life. In fact, take your bearings continually, so you won’t unknowingly stray off-course. Like David, we can continually pray: “Search me, and know me; test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me; and lead me in Your way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Enjoy the journey!