I Lost My Compass

Life is trying things to see if they work.
— Ray Bradbury
He knows the water best who has waded through it.
— Danish Proverb

While working in Central Asia, I led an outdoor adventure program for young boys called Royal Rangers. The boys had the opportunity to work on what they call merits. One merit took them through the basics of using a compass as a navigational tool. Those who demonstrated proper use of the tool in a non-life-threatening situation received a badge upon completion. Now proud users of a compass to help them find their way home.

I wish navigating life transitions was that easy!

I recently watched a movie with my wife and daughter called The Finest HoursIn the film, the Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952. The main character who heads up the rescue attempt is named Bernie, played by Chris Pine.

Upon rescuing the survivors from the sinking tanker, Bernie begins the journey back to shore only to discover his compass is broken.  "I lost my compass," he radios to his superior. With zero visibility in a small storm-tossed boat overloaded with desperate men, he has no choice but to navigate back to the safety of the harbor - without his compass.

As he pulls out of the fog and into the harbor, our hero is blessed with a warm and welcome sight. People and cars are lined up along the coast, shining their headlights in the direction of the storm-tossed sea hoping that the men would somehow catch a glimpse of the light and follow it in. The community came out to shine some light and welcome him home.

Three things capture my attention as it relates navigating transitions:

Transition calls for adjustment. In the movie, Bernie's finest hour came when he learned to navigate by paying attention to the wind and other outside elements. As he did so, his inward compass began to kick in. Transition presents an opportunity for recalibration. Adjustments and fine-tuning are necessities of getting through a difficult transition. Paying attention to the distinct characteristics of our unique transition will help us understand the ways we may need to adjust. As we navigate the storm, the Lord has promised to guide us through unfamiliar territory:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
— Isaiah 42:16

When we lose something, we often stand to gain something more valuable. A broken compass is a major loss, especially in stormy conditions. Transition can feel like a string of losses when things that have served us well in the past no longer seem to work. Those tried and true navigational tactics we've come to depend upon no longer give results. This can be a great time to reach outside for support and re-tooling. One of my recent clients in transition put it this way:

In a relatively short amount of time I have been able to capture insights from the entirety of my life and translate them into a more clear strategy. Not only have I gained a better understanding to navigate through life but I have also slowly learned how to aid others in similar situations.
— Alex

We may feel a bit lost and storm-tossed without our compass. But with some intentionality we can end up gaining valuable life skills and creative insights to guide us through transition and set us up for success on the other side.

There are others waiting to receive us on the other side. I know. This is not always true. Travelers have reached their destinations with little to no welcome or support. But in the age of social networking, there are more ways than ever to let people know you're on the way and that you could use some help. If your transition involves a geographical move, let me encourage you to get intentional about building relationships with those waiting on the other side of your transition. There may be something they can do to help you experience a smoother landing upon your arrival. They can certainly pray for you, and often they are willing to give emotional, logistical and other practical support. But we must be intentional about reaching out, letting them know we are coming and asking clearly for the support we feel we need. 

As you near the end of transition, I'm hoping some light will emerge out of the fog to give you hope and welcome you home - wherever home may be.

See you on the other side!

Get help navigating your transition HERE