As a boy, I participated in scouting. I was a cub scout, webelo, and then a boy scout for many years. In fact, I was only two merit badges away from becoming an eagle scout before I learned that dating girls was more fun than tying knots (only later did I realize that had I stayed in scouts, I could have learned how to untie some of the knots that dating got me in to – but that’s another story altogether).
Of all of the things we did in scouting, the most enjoyable event of the year was undoubtedly summer camp. Going to Camp Rotary for a week of swimming, boating, fishing, campfires, and of course – earning merit badges. Every year I went to camp, I always tried to use the week to earn as many badges as I could so I could move further along in the program. Besides, the offerings that the camp had were much better than most of the badges that I could earn back home. One year, I remember looking over the schedule of badge classes being offered and quite happily plotted out five badges to earn that week – a hefty amount as I thought. The genius of my plan was that it left me with a good bank of time in the afternoon to do the things I wanted to do – namely go swimming and canoeing. Productive and fun together, an excellent set up for the week.
Then it happened. On Monday afternoon, just as I was finishing a project at our campsite, only moments before grabbing my swim trunks and towel, I was faced with the worst set of circumstances imaginable. Wildfire? If only! Coyote attack? I wish! Tornado? I would have welcomed it! No, my fate was far, far worse.
You guessed it…It was our assistant scoutmaster, Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones was the guy who had been in the scouting movement since the 1910’s and had the uniform to prove it. Had he been in Lord Baden Powell’s first scout troop the very future of scouting could have been in jeopardy – either that or ritalin would have been invented decades earlier. He was fanatical about it – not in a creepy stalker way, but in the, “Hey, relax a little before you blow a badge,” kind of way.
So Mr. Jones walks into the camp and informs me that the class for orienteering was meeting in a few minutes and that nobody in the entire camp was signed up for it. That seemed reason enough for me not to buck the trend, but Mr. Jones wasn’t seeing my logic. So instead of a week filled with afternoon swims, I was off to learn how to use a compass and a topographical map to get myself lost, or found – I forget.
After several stops, I rushed to the class – arriving only about 30 minutes late. There were four other boys whose ASM’s had decided that they should also be miserable at camp who were now in this with me. Our instructor, a college aged guy who apparently felt compass reading was a life skill whose importance ranked somewhere between breathing and blinking, was there teaching us everything we needed to know about reading the compass and the map, finding the various points and plotting out our routes through poison oak on the back side of the lake. Yes, the same lake in which the children who had cool adult leaders were currently swimming (bitter, bitter, bitter). But I digress. We were preparing for Friday – the day we’d get dropped off in the woods and have to navigate the orienteering course all by ourselves. I can’t say I was enthralled, but I didn’t like the thought of sleeping with the raccoons, so I paid just enough attention to sort of know what I was doing.
Now we fast forward to Friday: the big day. I received my sealed envelope and was driven out to the middle of 42nd and Nowhere so I could find my way back to civilization after writing down numbers off of randomly placed milk jugs in the woods. I began the process of finding my bearings on the compass and the location on the map and used my incredible skills and intelligence to complete the course, scheduled to take at least an hour, in about 35 minutes. Of course, the camp hadn’t changed the course in many weeks allowing every person who’d traveled it before me to create a path that I merely followed to each destination. Upon my return to the “base,” I explained the source of my skills to Commander Compass. He didn’t appreciate my new world application of logic to the art of orienteering, but I did manage to earn my badge and a half hour of swimming time out of the deal.
If only life were that easy – the path marked out for me, just look closely and see exactly where I need to go and how to get there. You don’t need a compass and a map to know that it certainly is not. Life is filled with all sorts of nasty terrain: valleys of sorrow and depression, swamps of guilt and fear that bog us down, relationships rockier than any rough terrain, all of it covered in generous foliage of sin more potent than any poisonous plant. For much of my life, I have dealt with this in a similar manner as I dealt with orienteering as a boy scout. Wait until someone makes me deal with it, learn a base level of how I might approach it, find myself lost in the middle of something I’m unequipped to deal with and start looking for the easiest path out. Sound familiar? I thought it might. What’s our excuse – our explanation for how we deal with the troubles of life? “I’m trying”?
A sermon I recently heard mentioned something quite interesting about trying. As long as we keep trying, that’s probably all we’re going to do. We need to learn to stop trying and start doing. But not just doing what we think will solve things, not looking to Oprah and Dr. Phil for their behavior modification self-help, and not doing what brings us the most immediate and intense level of satisfaction. I’ve been a broken record of sorts lately, but bear with me as I head back to Matthew 6:33 once again…
BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU AS WELL.
We turn to Him for answers to the questions that hang in our minds and trouble our souls. The sleepless nights, the anxious days, the slow burn of a life filled with stresses and responsibilities filtered through the love and Word of the Creator of the universe. The hopelessness and despair of a life filled with disappointments and grief turned to comfort and increase through the promises of God. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Start each day in prayer and the Word. Read a chapter, or even just a few verses, but read and ponder what God is doing for you through the promises for His inerrant Word. Then take the next step and hear what He has to say to you through prayer. Bring your petitions to Him, cast your burdens, or simply worship Him but take time to go to Him in prayer. Do it tomorrow morning; do it later this evening; do it now. God’s promise to you is big and it’s real and He’s waiting for you. No compass needed, no map required, the path is marked with the blood of the Lamb of God.
Just watch out for Mr. Jones!