Give me landmarks or give me death.
That’s how I get where I’m going. Landmarks. I’ve never been great with road maps, for some reason: the crisscrossed red and blue lines and random interstate numbers blend together into a featureless mass that leaves me with no real sense of how the paper directions correspond to the realities of space and time.
Tell me to drive up 95 until I hit 460? I may never get there.
Tell me to turn left by the Wendy’s and then right at the stoplight by the coffee shop that just went out of business? I’ll be sitting in your driveway, right on time.
Whenever I’m in a new city, the first thing I do is look for an obvious landmark feature. In San Diego it was the tall spire of our hotel, visible from miles and miles away. In Prague it was St. Vitus’ Cathedral. With those landmarks firmly in mind, I have a “home base,” and no matter where I’m going or what I’m doing, I won’t get lost. I can’t tell you what an immeasurable comfort it is to be in an unfamiliar area or following an unfamiliar street, and then to look up and see the landmark I’ve chosen in the distance.
Landmarks reorient me. They remind me of where I am.
More and more, too, I am becoming convinced that reorientation – not of ourselves to landmarks, but of ourselves to God – is a vital part of the Christian life. Maybe one of the most vital.
Because it’s easy to segment the Christian life into separate parts. There is a worship time, and a prayer time, and a service time, and a fellowship time. And sometimes we can treat all those things as though they are individual practices and actions, and not parts of a whole. Sometimes we can treat those things as though they are outgrowths of our Christian walk, or appendages. But they are our walk. And doing them serves to reorient us.
Philip Yancey captures the idea well in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? He writes that although we’ve gotten used to thinking of prayer as a two-way conversation, prayer is also an attitude: a constant reorientation of ourselves in relation to God. Prayer is a reminder of who He is and a reminder of who we are. When we pray, we come into awareness of our own position.
And so, I suspect, with other things. Praise will do it: when the Spirit dwells in corporate worship, or when we’re alone praising or being thankful, doesn’t it serve to help position us properly? To remind us of God’s magnificence, and our privilege at being allowed to participate in it? Service will do it: how better to remember our own humility than to serve others, and to marvel at how Christ lowered Himself to serve us?
When we divorce our Christian actions from our Christian walk, the actions themselves become meaningless. But constantly seeking to reorient ourselves – using our prayer and our praise and our service and our fellowship to remind us of where we stand and where God stand and how it is possible that we should ever have been allowed to share in love together – reinvests these actions with great significance.
If you’re slogging through the same old same old, or you lack a feeling of freshness in your ministry or your spiritual life, take a minute and look for the landmark on the horizon. Settle your awareness, in the moment, on who God is, and who you are. Marvel that you have been enlisted in His service and chosen as beloved of His heart. The new realization of your position will give you confidence and invest you with the grace and joy to keep moving forward.
I’m in final edits on my study The Hunger Blessing, and the book will be released in a week or two! Prior to that, I’ll have some sales/giveaways running, so keep an eye out on the blog for news.