Survival School is about learning how to stay alive in the worst of circumstances, and part of that training is land navigation.
In other words, how not to get lost. Unfortunately, training does not always lead to success as I can personally testify. How did that happen with all our training? Surprisingly easy—my team and I veered slightly off course, rationalized our new direction, and then kept moving further away from our objective.
One portion of the training required us to travel by night while regularly checking the map, our pace count and the terrain (or what we could see of it). The frequency of our checks began to fade as we became increasingly tired, due to a lack of sleep, little food, and plenty of walking. Unbeknownst to us we veered slightly off the set course, and quickly learned the geometric principle that a one-degree change in vector leads to a large change in distance over time. Compounding the error, we also convinced ourselves that we could see the light of the anticipated checkpoint just over the next hill. (Funny how dawn has a way of lighting up each and every hill in the woods.) We told ourselves it would just be a few more minutes and we would safely arrive. The map, terrain sighting and pace count became a thing of the past as fear and panic slowly took control. Crying or screaming seemed natural, but not very helpful. We finally admitted we were lost, reoriented ourselves by way of the map, then recommitted to use the tools we had been given and trained to use. That reorientation and recommitment helped us reach our checkpoint, and it is the same principles that can help us get back on track with God.
Getting off course as a Christian is easier than we realize. One small decision can change our lives for the worse, and the scary thing is, we don’t even realize it at the time. It often starts with a lie, because we have a tendency to convince ourselves we need something or someone to make us feel good, strong, wise and powerful. Jeremiah said this tendency is in our hearts that are deceitful (17:9), and Paul said we listen to our lusts/wrongful desires that lie to us (Ephesians 4:22). Jesus warned that people can honor God with their mouth and yet have hearts that are distant from Him (Mark 7:6-7). The heart is often our source of decision-making and it is where the real problems start (Proverbs 4:23, Mark 7:17-23).
Veering off course is all too common, but we make it worse with our rationalizations. This is a fancy way of saying we try countless ways to have the ends justify the means. We tell ourselves that “we are only doing this thing once” and “we will stop as soon as we can.” We listen to people who support our efforts and dismiss those who give us contrary advice. We even use Bible verses to support our cause. We may even think we have a light guiding us to do the right thing, but even Satan can pose as an angel of light and his demons as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Rationalization then leads to negative momentum. We either figure we have already blown it so we might as well keep at it, or we think that if we keep moving in any direction we will eventually get back to the right place. The result is the same because the one-degree of separation now means we are 180 degrees from where we need to be. This is when hope slowly shrinks and despair sets in.
Reorientation and recommitment are essential at this point. In Biblical terms, it is all about repentance and faith. Reorientation is going back to the map as a way to find out where we are and where we need to go. Psalm 119 is a song that reminds us how important it is to have the Word as our map with us on a daily basis. Hiding it in our heart and using it to guide us through the ever-changing world is critical to a right orientation. Recommitment is the willingness to make up the distance we have lost by our bad decisions. It is bearing the consequences and walking rightly with God (Micah 6:8).
Are you lost? It is okay because we all get that way at different times in our lives. It is never too late to stop and check the map. Talk to a pastor or friend today to help you get back on track with God.