I was lost in the woods once. It was frustrating because I was several days into a trek across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with a group of guys. When we started out, we were young college students in search of adventure, but after a week in the rugged Northwoods, we were really just cold, hungry and tired, and ready for the adventure to be over.
That morning, we studied our topographic map (long before GPS) looking for a water source near which to pitch camp that evening. After some discussion, we took a bearing and headed out. It was raining and, even though mid-August, quite chilly, especially given our wet clothes. As the hours passed, we kept expecting to see over the next rise the small lake we were aiming for, but each time saw only more of the same dense woods we’d been slogging through all day. We were sure that we had followed our bearing closely—each of us had our own compass which we periodically checked throughout the day—but we hadn’t reached our destination. Nevertheless, with the light of day almost gone, we had to make the decision to pitch camp anyway, conserve the little water left in our bottles as best we could, and try to figure where we were the next morning. It turned out that following our compass bearing closely didn’t matter because we were wrong about our starting point.
Where We Are & Where We’re Headed
I learned in that experience something that has application beyond the woods and throughout life. We may set a course for ourselves and follow it closely, but if we are wrong about our starting point, we will still end up lost. Knowing both where we are and where we’re headed are of critical importance if we are to find our way. If only we had a GPS to guide our lives!
A Bearing for Life
Turns out we do. We’re reminded by the prophet Isaiah that God wants to guide us, and he is right there with us as we face the twists and turns of life:
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).
Jesus underscored that, calling himself “the Way” (John 14:6) and beckoning people in all manner of life circumstances—whatever their starting point— to follow him. He is the bearing that can be trusted to guide us along our path from right where we are. When we follow that bearing, our journey will be enlightened and full of life (John 8:12).
Jesus said it was his mission to look for and find those who have lost their way (Luke 19:10), and when he does, he calls them to follow him home. Having been lost in the woods, and in life, I know what a relief it is to be found and headed home.