Sunday, November 29, 2009

True North

Beve's 'Finnish' brother is here for a few days.  Not really Finnish, but he's lived there so long, he's taken on the cadence in speech, in world view, in counting money and measuring size.  He's all euro and metric, which leaves us trying to convert on the fly.  No easy task for someone like me for whom counting in any way makes me break out in hives.

The other day, while talking to my sister, the Dump (so nick-named, if you don't recall, because she is a genius, which probably doesn't make sense to you, but it did to me 40 years ago), the subject of directions came up.  In my head is a compass that almost never fails me.  I seem to have an instinctive knowledge of where north is, as well as which way to turn a car in order to get where we're going.  Beve doesn't have this and relies on me completely.  I'm not so good that I can go somewhere I've never been without a map, but once I've driven a route, I can almost always drive it again.  It's just one of those things that I came to this life with.  I take no credit for it.  My father had it as well, and at least one of my siblings.  But the Dump doesn't have it.  She just can't do it, which means that the GPS her Prius came with is an invaluable aid for her, especially because she lives in southern California and on occasion drives to many locales outside of her home routes.

Without rancor or sneer, I told the Dump that my instincts are so core in me that I simply don't get how others don't have them.  And she said, "I completely understand that, because I have that ability with anything mathematical.  It's just in my head immediately when a problem comes up, the necessary equation and only answer."  It's true.  I've seen her.  We might be talking about a recipe and need to make it 3 and 1/2 times bigger than the original.  It's like she turns her gaze to the always available calculator in her brain and punches in the numbers in a split second, comes up with the answer before I can snap my fingers.  Seriously, it's that fast.  Ridiculously fast, in fact.  Makes me sick fast.

I think it's part of the fundamental difference between my sister and me.  See, she thinks in letters and numbers.  Especially numbers, it seems to me.  And I think in terms of images.  Oh I can see words in my head, but they're always on a printed page.  I don't even know how one might see them otherwise.  And I don't get, just plain don't get how people don't see pictures in their brains.  You call up a moment of my history, and I instantly see it, right there, complete and almost present.  I think it's why I'm so certain (for the most part) of my memory.  And why I trust that compass in my head.  Somehow, I fit all of life into the giant compass that lives at the ready within. (Just to be completely candid, however, I must confess that the last time I was in my home town, sister RE and I got into a small disagreement over the placement of the nursing home where our mother now sits in her wheelchair.  I had it turned at a 90 degree angle from its true location.  Once I got up there, I understood how I had misplaced it.  Repented of it to RE.)

We come with these things, you know. The ability to remember things, the ability to do complicated math in one's head.  The ability to know, most of the time, true north.

True north.  This is an important tool--for all of us.  Learning to read a compass.  I remember fiddling with a compass before my dad taught me the skill.  I watched that half red arrow spin and spin and I hadn't the faintest idea why it was doing so.  But then Dad showed me that the red tip always pointed north, no matter how I head the compass.  In every situation, with a compass, even someone like the Dump could re-orient herself to the world, and find her way home.

Beside me as I write this, is our spiritual compass.  The amazing compass that always, always shows us the direction we need to walk, always points the way home.  I'm speaking of the Bible, of course. This God-given red-lettered book, that, like that red-tipped arrow, is God's eternal magnet, keeping us on course.  Over the years, there have been times when I've heard believers speak of how much they love God but have trouble with His compass.  They like praying but not reading His Word.  It hits me again this morning how easy it is to get lost--especially in this world--without that Compass of God always pointing toward True North.  Though we all go through seasons where that Compass appears to be simply spinning and spinning without making sense, I think--no, I believe--that if we might be the ones spinning.  If we stop, let it have the chance to do its work, it will always point toward Him, our true North.

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