Did you ever see the movie Without a Paddle? In high school, it was one of my favorite movies – over the top, dumb humor, just the right amount of cheesy nostalgia, and a comedic dream-team roster of Seth Green, Dax Shepherd, and Matthew Lilliard.
The premise is simple – one of four close friends dies and at the funeral the other three decide to go on their childhood treasure hunt to honor their childhood pact. Legend had it a bank robber had crashed his airplane in the mountains and the treasure was still there, waiting to be found. Hilarity and profanity ensue as the three encounter numerous obstacles in the wilderness, ultimately finding themselves lost and hunted by hillbilly marijuana farmers. Compelling synopsis, isn’t it? You’re probably headed to Amazon right this very second to buy your own copy of this must-see movie. Too bad I’m going to ruin the ending for you.
Professional treasure hunters had already scoured the mountains for the treasure after recreating the flight plan and combing all the expected crash areas. The three goons in the movie stumble upon the treasure by accident, and it’s only afterwards that they understand why no one else had found the treasure.
Mr. Bankrobber, flying in a storm, had no way of seeing landmarks and was left to rely on his compass to navigate. His plane was flying through a mountain range filled with iron ore deposits – which happen to be magnetic. What he didn’t realize was that his compass was off – because he was so close to the iron ore, its influence was stronger than that of the North Pole and changed the direction of the needle on his compass.
Maybe I’m just trying to justify my poor taste in movies, but I feel like this story features some parallels to the Christian life. The Holy Spirit acts as our invisible, spiritual compass, but we also have to deal with 24/7 media bombardment, readily available prescription pills, and access to more information and worldviews than ever before. Eating, sleeping, and even checking the weather can all have a significant impact on what we think or believe – anyone else occasionally blame sin for what’s really the fault of an unwise fast food binge?
How can we be sure our compass is pointing to True North, and not something that seems stronger simply because it’s closer? Thankfully, we’re given something in addition to our compass – a map. Had the bank robber in Without a Paddle been able to compare his surroundings to a map, he would have eventually noticed that something was wrong. Stumbling into a desert when your map shows you’re over an ocean is a good indication that you need to stop and figure out where you really are.
This is why I believe that it’s so crucial to spend time reading scripture. Sometimes our internal desires seem so deep that we think that they must be pointing us in the right direction, but God promises that the Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible – just as a compass and a map work well together. If there is a conflict between the two, which one do you dismiss first – the map or the compass? If your surroundings don’t match your map, don’t toss out the map. Instead, take a moment to look for things that might be interfering with your compass readings – big metal rock, simply indigestion, or your own sin nature.
- What factors have you noticed impact your decision-making ability?
- What helps you stay on course over the long haul?