The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


March 11, 2020

I attended college in South Chicago while in my early 20s. Chicago was a fun place for a young, irresponsible kid to explore and enjoy. I took full advantage of this truth, taking the train to the city at every opportunity. In my often aimless wanderings, I often lost track of where I was and found myself lost. This was a problem until I learned a simple trick for navigating the sprawling streets of the Chicagoland area. In the middle of the downtown area, there was a landmark that was easily visible for miles around: The Sears Tower (though they’ve since changed the name). The tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world and it stands a few blocks from one of the other tallest buildings in the world. These buildings never move, for obvious reasons and can therefore be used as landmarks for navigation. If you can spot the buildings, you can determine where you are based on where they are relative to each other. From this you could easily navigate to areas with access to the trains or major roads that lead to your destination. The use of stationary landmarks isn’t a new navigational trick. Sailors have used the North Star to determine direction for as long as sailing has existed. Having a fixed point to find your way is a bigger concept than it appears to be. It can also help us determine a great deal about life. I have known folks in my life who live their lives based on what seems right at the moment or based on popular opinion or based on what works at that time. Ethics become a matter of what feels right at the moment. Major life choices are made based on what works right now, rather than what is right in a bigger sense of the word. The Bible typically calls this approach: doing what is right in our own eyes. The problem is that it tends to come with all sorts of negative baggage. The first and biggest is that our feelings, opinions, and personal interests tend to change from day to day and mood to mood. What seems like a morally good decision to a young man may be a clearly wrong one to the same man who is older and wiser. History is loaded with examples of terrible evils done with good intentions and gut feelings about right and wrong. The reason for this is that relying on our own sense of what is good and bad at the moment is like navigating a city using a taxi cab as a landmark. Taxis are everywhere, but they tend to move around a lot, so they can’t really tell you where you are. When the basic truths of life are fluid and in constant motion, there isn’t any really truth to rely on, only feelings. Because of this, it is hugely valuable to figure out what is true and important in life and use bigger ideas to map your path in life. In Paul’s first letter to one of the early church pastors, Timothy, he begins by reminding the young man what is true about God and what is true about Timothy’s mission. These two unchanging truths become the guide for all of Timothy’s actions in the church he is serving. They are the skyscrapers in the middle of the pastor’s life that serve as landmarks. They are the truth that doesn’t change. I often encourage folks to figure out what the most important truths in life are and make decisions based on those truths. For example, I know plenty of folks who say God and family are the two most important things in the world, but neglect both in favor of working excessive hours. Plenty of Christian folks say that following Jesus is the most important thing, but then use their own tempers, personal desires, or popular opinion of the culture to make life decisions. I don’t think this is a result of malice, as much as it is about not thinking about things all that carefully. It’s just easier to make choices without considering what the big, unmovable landmarks in our lives. It often feels better to do so. However, as Paul warns Timothy in his letter: ignoring the unchanging truths will ultimately result in crashing your life. So, it is valuable to ask: What are the most important things in life and are you living like that in the truth?


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