A clock and a compass are both valuable tools, but serve two very different purposes. A clock measures where you are right now, without regard to the direction you are heading. A compass is all about direction. It's not so much about where you are at this moment, but about the direction in which you are heading.
The older I get, the more value I see in the compass. Destination and direction are vital. Destination and direction are more important than what is happening at any given time. A clear sense of destination and direction will help us focus on that to which God has called us, on what we really want our lives to be about. A compass makes sure you are heading in the right direction (or at least in the direction you want to go).
I need the focus that a compass gives. In a world ruled by full inboxes, crowded calendars, and over-flowing "to-do" lists, it is easy to lose sight of where I want to be and wander from the direction that will get me there.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to check your compass.
A few years ago, I came across this blog post by Chris Brogan. He writes about a different way of thinking about a new year. He thinks in terms of words that set the direction for the year rather than specific resolutions about what you are or are not going to do. His idea resonated with me. So each year, I spend some time with God – seeking direction on priorities and choosing three or four words to give direction to the coming year. All of these will have specific tasks, because even if you know your destination you won’t get there unless you take some steps. But the words (which will be at the top of each day’s calendar) will help set the direction for the year.
Here are my words for 2012:
Deeper – This is about deepening my relationship with God through set and focused times in His Word, prayer, fasting, journaling, etc. But it will also happen as I learn to discern more clearly the Holy Spirit’s work in my life and follow His leading. Richard Foster begins his classic book, The Celebration of Discipline, with these words:
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
Wider – This is really about writing. I told my staff last month that I want to do more of that. There is no guarantee that anyone will want to read what I write. But I do want to be more purposeful in the discipline of writing.
Higher – This is about making other people better. This applies to my family, my staff, our students, my friends, folks in campus ministry, the people with whom I work in track and field, or others God brings across my path. I want to be purposeful in sharpening them.
Lower – This is about my weight. I told my wife last night that 2012 is a year no fried foods and no sweets. She was not excited about that idea. And I’m not sure that I can completely do that. But I do want to commit myself to a better diet – better foods, smaller portions, fewer calories – and more exercise.
So those are my words for 2012. What are yours?