Wednesday, December 26

North Is Always Up

"North," my son insists, "is that way." He's pointing determinedly toward the corner of our yard in a direction that I feel, instinctively, is East. Or almost East, at least.

The younger two boys, backed-up by my husband, join the argument. The argument wherein they assure me that they are all right, and I hold out that they are all wrong. Because I can feel that West is not in the direction they claim, and nor is South. They must be wrong, because my instincts tell me so.

My instincts, it turns out, are out of whack. A compass is yanked from the school drawer and it is quickly determined that I don't have the slightest idea what I am talking about.

It would be safe to imagine that, having been proven wrong, I would drop the subject there. Directionality comes up often in conversation ("I saw a pair of coyotes just East of here this morning," or "Hey, Mom, which direction am I pointing in now?" All knowing smirks to follow.) and every, every time I am committed to my sense that the compass must be skewed because my insides tell me which way is what.

Road trips are an adventure with me at the wheel. I'll follow my nose ("This way feels like must be South."), sometimes with challenging results. I once drove a full hour in the direction exactly opposite to the one I should have been heading simply because it felt right!

Which brings me to a thoughtful point: Sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes our perceptions about ourselves and our surroundings are out of line with our Compass. We see ourselves, our loved ones, our companions, our children as something that they are not.

If we're optimists, we may have the joyous luxury of seeing things in the lovely glow of beauty and success. More likely, we're realists, pessimists, even fatalists: things are ugly, failing, not measuring up.

What did your inner voice tell you about yourself when you looked in the mirror this morning? What did it tell you about how you handled the Christmas crowd or your child's last misdemeanor? What did it tell you about your temper, your sense of humor, your talents, your contribution to the world?

Is it telling you the truth, or is some invisible magnet pulling it off the north arrow?

"Believe all that Jesus says about you, and some of what others say about you ~ even if it's something nice." That's one of the attitudes I've been struggling to adopt over my years' long journey toward a healthier body. It can be difficult, even impossible, for us to believe the kind, building, I-adore-this-about-you words of our Savior and our friends.

Our insides tell us, with stout determination built on decades of experience, that it's all flattery or feel-good mumbo-jumbo. But sometimes the good stuff is true. Our experience tells us that it'd be better if we stayed out of potentially painful relationships. Jesus says, "Go. Do. Tell." Our years tell us we're not very funny, we're too loud, we say all of the wrong things (all of the time). Our friends say, "You said just the right thing yesterday. Thanks!" or "You make me laugh!"

More difficult to accept (at least graciously!) are words of correction. Sometimes our thoughts about ourselves, our children (My little Johnny would never do that!), our lives are nice and shiny on the outside but a little rotted and rusty on the inside. A warning, a rebuke, a criticism from a friend can be hard to accept.

My guess is that my internal compass is never going to improve. West will always feel West even if it's actually South. What may improve, if I choose to let it, is my willingness to acknowledge that my sense of direction is off. Way off.

My ability to assess myself, my friends, my world may not improve much either. Maybe my judgement will always be a little wacky. Maybe, when it comes to myself, it will always be on the cruel side. What may improve, if I choose to let it, is my willingness to acknowledge that I'm not always perceiving things correctly. I may learn to live in agreement with the tender things that others sometimes say, or the leading things that Jesus might point out.

What about you? If I tell you now that you are so lovely, so funny, so wonderfully intelligent, can you hear me? Because I'm telling you the truth. You are made to look like God and I think that you are brilliant!

If a friend says, "Watch out! There's trouble ahead ~ you may not be as strong here as you think you are," are you able to listen?

Can you ignore that critical, sneering voice of Accusation, or the flattering, stroking hand of Pride and align your thinking with a more truthful compass? Maybe your internal compass is off? Just a little? And maybe the God who made you and the people who adore you are telling you the truth.

That said, I'm going out to buy a new compass. Ours is obviously broken and I wouldn't want to impede my sons' education by forcing them to use faulty equipment.

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