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May 13

Mid-week Devotional from Mike Crinson

When I emigrated to Canada as a young adult, I mentally pictured a land filled with forests, lakes and wilderness, where everybody had a canoe and perhaps the occasional wild animal walked through town. Needless to say, I learned within a couple of hours of landing at Hamilton International airport that Southern Ontario is not quite like that! Nonetheless, shortly after coming to Canada I took up the sport of wilderness adventure racing, an essential part of which is orienteering. In adventure racing, you pick your own route to visit a number a checkpoints in the bush to complete the race. GPS and cell phones were not allowed so your only equipment was a map, with the checkpoints marked on it, and a compass.

I recall one particular training session that was held at Dundas valley where a group of about a dozen of us gathered to practice night navigation. A big difference for this training session was that this was not in teams but solo. The purpose of the exercise was to visit the unmanned checkpoints in any order you chose and return to the starting point within two hours.

It was already dark when the training session began, and everyone ran off in different directions. Within minutes I was running alone, through the bush, toward the first checkpoint I had chosen and it was beautifully peaceful with only the sound of my breathing to be heard. Things were going well about 40 minutes later after visiting several checkpoints, when I paused to drink some water. At that point I began to appreciate that I was alone, in the middle of the woods, at night, unable to see more than 15 feet in front of me. With the headlamp I realized I could see directly in front of me as a tunnel of illumination. More importantly, I realized there was so much I could not see. The sense of peace I began the race with slowly began to turn to fear. Then I heard the noise of a branch snapping out of sight to my left and as I turned toward the noise the fear began to grow. What animal was that?

Now slightly disoriented, I decided to stand still and keep looking around. After some time I began to realize I couldn’t stay there all night but I didn’t know which direction I was facing. I pulled out the compass to figure out the direction I was facing and the map to figure out exactly where I was and needed to go. As I began to move again the calm was restored even though I could still hear the occasional noises in the woods around me.

After my experience that night I really began to appreciate Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”

When we lose sight of what we are here to do, it is so easy to become distracted by what is going on around us. A simple distraction behind you can change your focus and direction and cause doubt. Even worse, the uncertainty and fear can paralyse you with fear so that you just stand still and do nothing. Standing still in our spiritual course will lead to uncertainty and fear. We always have Jesus with us as our compass. When we are disoriented we can turn to Jesus to give us direction for our lives. When we don’t know spiritually where we, we have the Bible as our map to help us understand where we are in our race.

I finished my night orienteering training session that day with a great sense of achievement, despite a few stumbles along the way. I wonder how much we can each achieve and how much greater will be the prize if we all continue the individual race marked out for each of us by God, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.