LOST YOUR BEARINGS?
It was my first year in college. One of my classmates was blind. As I crossed the parking lot returning to the dorm, I spotted my blind classmate riding a bicycle across the parking lot. He was headed right toward me. I froze in my tracks. I had no immediate mental context for interpreting what was happening or about to happen. My friend swerved, chuckled, and hollered back at the last moment, “Betcha thought I was going to hit you!” I breathed a sigh of relief while my mind strived to decipher what had just happened. As my mind replayed the event in slow motion, one frame at a time, I realized that my classmate was clucking as he was riding. Like sonar, the sound of his clucks echoed off nearby surfaces. The echoing sound provided him with the bearings he needed to prevent harm to himself, parked cars, and bewildered people like me.
Recently I had a conversation with one of our Hispanic Pastors. He described his experience as a Pastor navigating the challenges presented by the Covid pandemic. He was trying to express his feelings now that we have emerged from the pandemic. Even wordsmiths like Preachers can, on occasion, strive for the right words to communicate feelings. My colleague faced the additional challenges of interpreting and translating his feelings from his native tongue to English. He also hoped that I would comprehend what he was trying to say. He was communicating about how life felt so different now.
One of the leadership gurus I’ve appreciated is Geoff Colvin. Referring to the pandemic, he wrote this in a recent article for Fortune. Even though he addresses business CEOs, what he says applies to Church and ministry leaders.
“…the most demanding, most disorienting, most exhausting experience of their careers, and for some the most frightening. Yet history suggests it’s just possible that they may someday remember it with gratitude. The past two years have been a classic crucible experience. It has been painful, and it has forced CEOs to look into themselves more deeply than most people ever do. It has transformed them. Few people seek out a crucible experience. But those who go through one almost always conclude much later, looking back, that it changed them for the better.”
If I were to put words to one of the feelings expressed by my Hispanic Pastor friend in our conversation, it would be, “I feel like I’ve lost my bearings!” As he shared his feelings with me, the first half of Psalm 46 came to my mind.
“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
There is a river; the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered his voice, the earth melted.” (Psalm 46:1–6)
A bearing is the direction or position of something relative to a fixed point or the direction of movement relative to a fixed point. It is an awareness of one’s position relative to one’s surroundings.
The city of my childhood was Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The geography is relatively flat. My wife, Joanne, was raised in Burbank, California, in the San Fernando Valley. Mountains surround the valley. The first time Joanne visited Kitchener with me, she could not get her bearings. There were no mountains to reference. I had spent almost 15 years of my early life in Kitchener and had learned the city’s layout. Finding my bearings was no problem for me.
Years ago, I studied Psalm 46. I find with poetic writing, especially after doing the proper exegesis, I must take time to meditate to gain a deeper understanding. . One day, while meditating on this Psalm, I heard this question in my mind. “Would you be okay if suddenly everything disappeared and you were suspended in nothingness?” While nothing that dramatic may happen, sometimes specific fixed points of our lives disappear. When that happens, we are at risk of losing our way.
Happily, the Psalmist here encourages his readers that specific fixed points are eternal. They are spiritual. Of course, God is a central fixed point. The Psalmist points to the River of God as a constant. I think this river is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture, various manifestations of water describe the personality and ministry of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit indwells the disciples of Jesus Christ. His presence is not static. The Spirit creates a spiritually discernible flow within. The direction of that flow is one of the ways God guides.
The author of Hebrews affirms that our physical senses can discern spiritual realities.
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
Have you lost your bearings? Jump in the river of the Holy Spirit and let that flow guide you!
I have shared on previous blogs about being in transition.
In transition, we move away from familiar fixed points. Trusting the flow of the Holy Spirit provides direction through the transition and into a new season of life. The new season will establish new fixed points from which to navigate.