Changing Direction

Several years ago I was paddling my canoe around the bend of a fast moving Canadian river. I felt prepared because I had studied my map closely, which showed that a series of rapids was just around the corner. Fortunately, the map also showed a place to pull ashore just before the rapids, so that one could get out and portage their canoe safely around the rough waters. This was my plan, but you know what they say about the best-made plans. I missed the pull off for the portage, and the current was too strong for me to do anything except allow it to pull me into and through the rapids. With a combination of high water and luck, I was fortunate to negotiate around the rocks without capsizing, white knuckles and all.  I remembered this heart-pounding experience recently when I came across the Chinese proverb found in the box at the top of this column, “If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” On that day in Canada I missed my chance to change directions when I passed the pull-off for the portage, and so I did, indeed, end up exactly where I was heading.

We are in the Christian season of Lent, a time when many Christians make time to reflect on the direction their lives are heading. Most religions offer similar times during the year that serve as an invitation for self-examination.  During such times, it is common to ask oneself, “Are the choices I am making in my life right now aligned with my faith—with my core values and beliefs?” and,  “If so, how might I continue and strengthen those choices? If not, what can I do differently, what change can I make to more fully align my life with my beliefs and values?”

The season of Lent has traditionally been a time to reflect on one’s spiritual life. In our Living Compass programs, we invite people to expand this process of self-reflection to all aspects of our lives, not just our spiritual lives. How are we caring for our bodies? How are we managing our finances? How are we caring for the meaningful relationships in our lives? How are we caring for our emotional wellness? Where are our lives in or out of balance? How are we managing stress?

Just as with my canoeing experience, sometimes the current of life makes it hard for us to change directions. We can easily miss opportunities that present themselves to pull off the river, to take some time to consider our options or to make a safe portage around difficult waters. The season of Lent provides just such a time, a time to stop and reflect on the direction our lives are heading. I highly recommend taking some of the coming weeks to do so, because after all…. if you don’t change direction, you may end up where you are heading.


By Scott Stoner, for Living Compass