On a whim…

Chaotic, esoteric, marginally coherent, stuff about life.

True North

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“North; Which way is north?” The imperative in her tone did not escape me.

“Which north do you mean, dear: magnetic or true?” 
“Oh good grief, don’t be so complicated. Just tell me which way is north.”

The other day I learned that at various times in earth’s history the magnetic poles have been reversed. Does that mean that ‘down under’ becomes ‘up yonder’? I can hear folks in New England struggle with the notion of going up to Georgia and down to Canada. Don’t even ask me what we would do about ‘Down-east Maine’.

It seems there is a crisis of direction these days. Where are we going in Iraq? Why, when the economy is growing, are the “real” dollars that Americans earn less now than they were in 2000? What is the “real” definition of marriage? What is really right and really wrong?

Once, I took a trip to the mountains with a friend, Stan. Stan drove his 1963 Impala along an unpaved Forest Service road cruising uncomfortably close to the edge. As you visualize what I mean by “uncomfortably” remember we were in the mountains. I warned Stan that we were a little too close to the edge. To this he replied by veering farther to the right saying, “You mean like this?” To his amazement and to my sorrow I was vindicated. The soft soil of the shoulder yielded to the weight of the car. We began a slow roll that was, temporarily, halted by some small trees. The view from the passenger window was mud, stone, and naked roots. The view from the driver’s side was an azure sky framed by the forest canopy.

We crawled out Stan’s window to escape in case the roots lost their hold on the car. We stood on the roadway. I glared, Stan shrugged, the bugs bit. Stan pondered, aloud, whether one of us should walk out, a mere twelve miles, to get help. I glared some more. As he continued pondering “things” a man, on foot, rounded the curve and sized up the situation right quick.

“You boys lost?”

I could think of many things that could describe our state. Words like, injured, in shock, waiting for rescue, came to mind. “Lost” was not in the lexicon I was using as I glared at Stan.

“No sir, we were driving up to the Blood Mountain area and thinking of doing some fishing on the way.” I replied.

“That’s not what I meant. I mean are you ‘lost’ or are you ‘saved’. In those days I was pretty slow to pick up on the theological nuances of the English language and so I naively replied that we had ‘saved’ ourselves by climbing out of the car window.

The patient evangelist persisted, “Yes, I can see how that could be true but you could still be on your way to hell.”

I thought of Stan glaring, “The only hell that matters to me is sitting in the passenger seat with him.”

Perhaps the fellow concluded I was included in the category of fools and children after whom the almighty watches in spite of themselves. In any case he charged ahead, “I mean are you a Christian?” 

My single worded response, “Yes” was hardly convincing. And the fellow surrendered the road to us and trudged on leaving us in silent bewilderment. No offer to make a call, no information as to where we might find a phone, seek shelter, or set up a beggars’ camp for the duration of our wait. He just left us.

I’m quite sure that he asked a fundamentally important question but the depth of his rhetoric was superficial. Am I saved? Am I lost? Am I a Christian? Could I be a ‘lost’ Christian or are they mutually exclusive? And, besides all that, which way is north.

Hypothetically I could tie a piece of string to the bed post and head in the general direction I believe is north and, when I can measure the sun’s position relative to the horizon in such a way that I can “prove” my location, I could pull the string taught, signal my dear wife and indicate which way is north.

Regrettably, I could not similarly satisfy our evangelist but I have a hunch. I suspect that I could choose to accept the possibility that the life Jesus called disciples to is a true one. Further, I could choose to follow that same ‘way’ of living, not out of hope for a reward but out of the hope that it is the ‘right’ way. Something tells me that I would be less concerned with questions such as “Are you saved?” and more concerned with “Are you hurt? Are you hungry? Do you need help?”

By the way, I don’t have enough string. I tried it this morning. Now the shoes have no laces, the dog has lost his leash, and the cord to the vacuum cleaner is missing. If my dear wife is looking for me, tell her I am probably lost but I don’t think I am headed for hell.

Oh yes, one more thing, which way is north?

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Written by David Wilkerson

28 January 2008 at 1:13 pm

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