My plane was slowly taxiing the runway after dark, awaiting the signal to take off. After being gone for a week on a personal retreat, I was anxious to get home. Gazing out my window to catch a glimpse of the surroundings, a brightly lit yellow sign on the runway caught my attention: “Check your compass, extreme magnetic deviation is possible.” It was one of those signs which stuck with me, and I decided to write the wording down before take off so I would not forget it.
Some time after arriving home, I did a bit of research on magnetic deviation. My brief research showed how easy it is for an airplane’s magnetic compass to be thrown off by magnetic forces both in the materials of the plane, its cargo and in the surrounding environment. A pilot cannot rely on the initial reading of the compass. He must compensate for the deviation by tuning the compass or calibrating it so that the magnetic needle points to True North. Because the magnetic forces change, this procedure is one which must be performed frequently and is one of the first actions a pilot initiates, taking great care to keep a log of all readings. Although I do not fully understand the logistics, it is clear that even the smallest variation can have a huge bearing on reaching the final destination. Imagine if just one degree of error over the distance of one mile would lead the airplane 92 feet away from the destination, and then multiply that error over the distance of any given flight. The error becomes disastrous, putting many lives at stake.
As I process the words and meaning of the sign, its application in my own life does not escape me, particularly entering into a new year. I am reminded of how easy it is to stray off course and deviate from True North. Life’s cargo can take its toll, making it almost impossible to stay the course without faltering even in the smallest degree. People, situations and experiences frequently have the potential to distract and deter me from a straight path. Lack of focus, laziness and even moments of self absorption hinder me from being able to see the correct direction clearly.
At the start of a new year, I am thankful for the opportunity to make corrections, to adjust the direction, to recalibrate. There is a responsibility I have to remain on course, and the role of intention is important to me. However, wisdom warns me to acknowledge my humanity, and the reality that even the best of human intention can lead to disaster.
Wisdom also reminds me how crucial the component of yielding is in reaching the destination because I do not have all of the information necessary to recalibrate on my own.. Neither do I have the ability to be completely objective, and I find my path easily altered by my own filter of understanding. There is great comfort in the knowledge that my final destination is not dependent solely on either my intention or understanding. It is dependent the one true God who has full knowledge of my life and my cargo. He extends mercy through the mistakes and offers grace through the gaps, recalibrating for the sake of the destination . All I have to do is remain pointed toward True North.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3: 5,6