Dear Friends in Christ,
Last week was my first stay at the Coos Bay diocesan office. Shepherd House, our new Coos Bay residence, has been transformed thanks to the skill, sweat, and design skills of the faithful people of Emmanuel in Coos Bay, St. John’s in Bandon, and St. Mary’s in Gardiner.
As I was driving home and reflecting on an energizing visit, my attention was captured by the GPS in my car. I noticed that I can choose how the map will display the directions to my destination. The map can show me the direction I am driving based on my own orientation, so the arrow (the symbol for my car) is always pointing ahead. Whether I turn west, east, or south the arrow on the GPS screen is always pointing ahead. The other option is to show my route according to true north. The map will show me how I am traveling in relation to true north, so whenever my turn is any direction other than north, the arrow will show that I have turned east, west, or south. In any direction I turn, the GPS will always show where I am in relationship to north.
This seems to me an excellent way to think about our Christian journey and the manner in which we find our way into Christ. There are daily invitations to see the choices we make according to our own devices and desires – as if the direction we are facing is only and always the correct way. As if wherever we are headed is the best way because we are exercising our freedom to choose. The difference that faith in Jesus Christ makes, however, challenges the preeminence of individual choice at every turn. A life that has been formed by the Christian journey is a life that has been shaped by following Christ more than following the false idols of ego, pride, or arrogance.
In our baptism, confirmation, and reaffirmation, we are promising to give up the illusion of total control over our lives; we are promising to make Christ our guide and our teacher. To live as followers of Christ, we are choosing to find our way with Christ as our True North. Way-finding with Him as True North is to understand precisely when and how we have turned in a different direction and perhaps have begun to go astray.
I find that I rely on my GPS on every trip I make to a place I haven’t been to before. As Christians, each day dawns as an adventure into faces, exchanges, and movements we can not predict or control. Each new day brings a myriad of choices we haven’t yet made. It is a blessing, therefore, to know that in the midst of a typical day or a troubling day, we always know where to find our True North. Following Christ may require that we let go of the direction we thought was the right way; it may challenge our assumptions about where to look for help. But with Christ as our True North, we are never lost. There is great comfort in this, especially when we find ourselves feeling disoriented and seeking a way back.
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Direct my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
So lead me onward, Lord, and hear my plea.
Not always thus, I seldom looked for you,
I loved to choose and seek my path alone.
In spite of fear, my pride controlled my will,
Remember not my past, but lead me still.
— John Henry Newman