Orienteering With God

I love to make plans. Like an artist with a fresh, new blank canvas, I sit before my daily calendar pages, the literal future just waiting for my omniscient pencil to paint my plans, hopes and desires for the days and weeks ahead. I once heard that personalities can be described by the phrase “ready, aim, fire.” For example, there are those people who are just full of energy. Their lives seem to be one steady stream of action . . “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE.” There are the types who tend to leap before they look. They can be described as “FIRE, ready, aim.” And then there are people like me; people who like to plan. “Ready, aim, ready, aim, ready . .”

You see planning is so secure, so controlled, so much more fun than execution. Even the phrase “execute a plan” offers a foreboding premonition of the sorry fate of most of my plans. While on rare occasions I successfully execute a plan, more often than not my plans are executed as the firing squad of life (kids, attitudes, accidents , weather, you name it) takes aim at my poor plan. “Ready . . aim . . FIRE!” And it was such a nice plan.

The problem with plans, while necessary, is that we don’t have the means to make them happen. We can’t control ourselves, much less the many people and circumstances we include in our plans. We aren’t sovereign. As homeschooling moms, we are big on plans. We have to be. We have taken on the responsibility of providing the education of our children . . their very reason for existence (at least in the eyes of our culture and some in-laws). We better have a plan! The county requires one, our husbands tend to appreciate it, and like a map, our plans guide us through the myriad of decisions, directions, and detours a single day of homeschooling may bring. Who but a homeschool mom teaches number formation, long division and geometry in one day? How about “A says apple”, adjectives modify nouns, Aramaic was spoken by the Jews, and the ancient Assyrians worshiped Ashur? Wh o else experiences the terrible twos, teenage angst, and the roller coaster of pre-menopause in a decade, much less a day?! But I digress. We need a plan . . or so it seems.

Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, O Lord that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” The Proverbs tell us in chapter 20, verse 24, “A man’s steps are from the Lord, how then can man understand his way?” These verses clearly show us that we are powerless to even understand our way, much less determine it. It is God who directs our steps. With regard to our plans, Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” So what are we to do we do with our plans? Pitch ‘em? Isn’t that like taking a trip without a map?
My husband and sons enjoy orienteering. No, orienteering is not an in-depth study of the Far East. According to Wikipedia, “Orienteering is a sport that requires navigational skills using a map and com pass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain. Participants are given a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points as they race against the clock.” So in other words, they start off lost (“diverse and unfamiliar terrain”) and then race to get unlost. What is significant for our purposes is their tools . . a map and a compass, and their destination . . unknown.

If our plans are like a map, what is our compass? If you’re like me, I don’t typically travel with a compass. Mapquest directions usually do the trick. Sometimes I’ll print out the map just for insurance. But a compass? The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, Canada is north, and Mexico is south; therein lies my sense of navigational direction. Who needs a compass? We do, if, like the orienteer, we’re not exactly sure where our final destination is. We can know God’s princ iples, we can know His desires, but rarely do we know His plans. Romans 11:33-34 says, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?”

When our boys turn 13 years old, we give them an adult study Bible and a compass. The message is clear. The Word of God is our life’s compass. It points us to our “true north”, and as His word reveals Him, we follow. God desires to reveal Himself in the day to day of our homeschool lives, as well as in His word. If we’ll set our plans in proper perspective . . if we’ll refer to our map, but rely on our compass, we might just see Him more often.

I suspect that the majority of our stress and discouragement in homeschooling arises from unmet expectations . . unexecuted  plans or rather, plans that have been mercilessly executed by life’s interruptions. Regarding interruptions, C.S. Lewis said, “The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - the life God is sending one day by day." But are we able to see this truth when we can’t see past our poor plan, the plan we worked so hard on and stayed up half the night perfecting?

Think about how we tend to pray about our plans and our homeschools. I know much of my prayers center around asking God to bless my plans, bless our day, bless our efforts, bless these kids, bless our attitudes, bless our work . . in other words God, please give us a trouble-free, pleasant day, with minimal conflict, and otherwise “ready for the cover of ‘Teaching Home’ magazine children.”

Funny, when I looked up the words “bless, blessed, blessing, and blessings” in my con cordance, not one out of 54 times was there a request petitioning God for his blessings. Rather they were praises (“bless the Lord, O my soul”), directives (“bless those who curse you”), prayers for others (“the Lord bless you and keep you”), promises (“all these blessings shall come upon you”), and declarations of our state as children of God (“blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord”). The Amplified Version Bible defines “blessed” as “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous--with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions.” That's worth reading again, “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous--with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions. ” That is how you and I are described as children of God! Do you believe that?

In the Bible study series, “The Truth Project”, teacher Dr. Dell Tackett asks the question "Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?" He goes on to ask how it would affect your life if you did. Do we really believe that we are blessed? I think if we were more convinced of our present state of blessedness in Christ, we would be a little less preoccupied with our plans and, as a result, experience greater peace and rest no matter what our day brings, good or bad, easy or hard, pleasant or painful.

God's word, our "compass", has more to say about our plans. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” And Psalm 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” The picture of a child with her little hand in her father’s comes to mind. Even as she stumbles along, she won’t fall because her father holds her hand. The word translated as “established” is the Hebrew word “kuwn”, which can also be translated as “ordered, confirmed, directed, fixed, ordained, perfected, prepared, and readied.” What a gracious God who, even as we feebly make our plans, establishes our steps. In the midst of our imperfect plans, our perfect God is establishing, ordering, confirming, directing, fixing, ordaining, perfecting, preparing, and readying our steps!

In light of this knowledge, we can see our challenges, struggles, problems, issues, even crises, not as impediments or roadblocks to progress and success, but rather as the holy and God-ordained means to accomplish His grander purposes of conforming us and our children to His image. We have the rare opportunity to live 24/7, authentic, pretenseless lives before our children day in and day out. Through our struggles they can witness repentance when we fail, faithfulness when desire and enthusiasm wanes, God’s strength in our weakness, and so much more. The result is that our children learn that Christianity is not something we do, but rather who we are.

Our challenge is to not be content to seek His blessings, but rather to wholeheartedly seek Him, so that He might inhabit our hearts, our homes, our relationships, and all we do including our homeschooling. Like David in Psalm 27:4, may we say, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” That is our ultimate destination.

Psalm 90:16-17 is a beautiful prayer of petition and consecration, “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the beauty and favor of the Lord God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yes, establish the work our our hands.” Amen . . so be it.