Getting Our Bearings
Aug 20, 2017 05:22AM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith
“Let’s stop for coffee at that rest stop. Who knows when we’ll see another coffee shop that can park a trailer.”
And there it was. My husband and daughter found their way back to the pickup truck with two coffees in hand. Through the door, my husband offered that look—the one I’ve seen on several occasions over 24 years of marriage. The one that says: “All is not well with the world.”
Then came the words: “Can you come with me for a second? I think we have a significant problem.”
Did I mention he is an engineer? That is how he tends to presents an issue or problem to solve. It’s usually businesslike and straightforward. Unemotional. My artistic heart, on the other hand, usually panics with a torrent of emotion: “Mark!!! Something horrible has happened! I need your help…now!”
Because he had that serious demeanor where he didn’t want to alarm the kids, I was panicked that our dog Samson, who had been under the weather for a few days, had a major issue and there was "sick" all over the crate. Internal blockage ran through my mind. Oh no, emergency surgery! (See how my mind can quickly derail with the possibilities?)
What he brought me over to see was that the bearing of one wheel of the travel trailer had melted off. Like plastic ooze. Almost nothing left. It became quite clear we could not continue to drive it without significant damage. Where on earth would we manage to get roadside assistance for our 8,000-pound home away from home? Were our plans to see the eclipse in the Midwest with family completely over?
After five hours of waiting and calling, we were hauled to an RV repair place in the middle of nowhere, western Massachusetts, where the kind owner let us “boondock” for the night. He even offered us electricity. This is the best part of taking your cabin with you, so to speak. You are never entirely stranded. And we had water in the tank! One night camping at a repair shop, and hopefully we’d be on our way.
And life often does that, doesn’t it? We make our plans and the kids get sick, the dog eats a toad (don’t laugh…this came close to happening), a loved one passes, a crisis hits.
I am sure we can all add up how many times we have been derailed or rerouted from the direction we thought we were going in.
Proverbs 16:9, ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
I have to admit that in the past, my default reaction to sudden changes has been anger. I skipped disappointment and went straight to anger, to the injustice and inefficiency of it all. I usually bypassed mild annoyance and simply raged.
But not lately.
Not since Dad died 18 months ago. Not since I lost my bearings in a sea of bewilderment, grief, disillusionment, and some old abandonment issues cropping up afresh. It knocked me floating in a sea of crisis. I had to find what it is that I hold onto. I was spinning my wheels, and had I not found my bearings, like my trailer wheels, I would have been burning away at the good things holding me there.
Since I spent time floating in the waters of Christ after that wave of pain, I discovered He really is the life jacket I put on. I find Him there when I float in troubled waters, and I find Him offering shelter, pulling me from danger on the road, fixing the areas I am burning out until I am safe again to get back on the road.
Psalm 62:8, ESV
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
I found that getting my bearings required a few behaviors so difficult for so many of us, especially in this modern culture of hyper-independence:
- Acceptance that I don’t drive my own ship (submission)
- Reliance on Him who calms my every storm
- Humility to ask for and seek help
- Understanding I am not enough for myself or anyone else
- Being still
- Listening to God
Several losses, trials, and difficulties have occurred since those hard lessons laying at the feet of Jesus upon the loss of my father. And, each time, I am trying to be more intentional to go back to the list above. It requires discipline to know I can’t fix my own bearings—but there is a Father in heaven who can! Sometimes He sends workers, and sometimes He comes alongside us more directly.
Psalm 46:10, ESV
"Be still, and know that I am God! I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth."
Being still changed over time. It could be gardening, sitting in my gazebo, holding a dog, watching the birds at the feeder, or taking a step back to view my life from a grateful lens. But every time I was still, my wheel got a bit more on track. Healing happened. Peace came over my inner thunder.
Like my travel trailer, pushing on when proper bearings are not in place is not wise. The trailer needed the wise touch of a knowledgeable repairman before it could move any further.
We are so much like that as well. We were created to be dependent on our loving Father who wanted to redeem us through His Son Jesus, the Christ.
Psalm 37:39-40, ESV
The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
Psalm 73:23-25, ESV
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
In order to keep functioning well, we have to seek the balm and truth of His Holy Word, keep the dialogue going with Him openly and honestly, and continue in the fellowship of believers (and the accountability of godly counsel).
We can hobble along, only seeking His counsel when the wheels are falling off and rolling down the road, putting us in greater danger and extending the amount of repair needed, or we can check in and make sure that we’re good to go, our plans match His, and we are ready for the road ahead.
Which one are you today?
Which one do you want to be?
Isaiah 41:13, ESV
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.