Finding ‘true north’ in the dark is a path laid before us

| May 30, 2014 | 0 Comments




Chaplain (Capt.) Rob Cargel
205th Military Intelligence Battalion
500th MI Brigade


All Soldiers have conducted land navigation; it’s one of many basic soldiering skills requiring regular training in order to maintain proficiency.

The two possible settings in which to conduct land navigation are day and night. Soldiers can see ground hazards and assess proper footing placement daytime. It is during nighttime operations that the Soldiers’ land navigation skills are tested beyond all measure.

Nighttime land navigation presents especially difficult challenges. Depending on illumination through moonlight, visibility during nighttime land navigation can vary from 2-10 feet.

So there I was, sitting on the bleachers in the smelting heat of Fort Polk, La., eagerly waiting for dusk to arrive to begin nighttime operations. Now, let me be clear, this event was not a team event. There was no battle buddy system in place.

Dusk came, and the cadre released the first group to conduct its night land navigation course. It was after finding my first three points that I found myself completely and utterly lost in the woods. The moonlight offered very little light to guide me. The darkness presented countless obstacles through which I had to maneuver. It was in the darkness that I was most vulnerable to the dangers that existed in the woods. During nighttime operations, I could neither see clearly nor avoid the hazards that were present.

It was very frustrating. I was conducting land navigation on the same terrain and literally on the same course that I’d done in daytime. The woods were the same, and the course was the same. The only difference was that the sun was no longer shining.

Until that moment of desperation and frustration, I’d never realized how much easier my negotiation through the woods was made by the light. Psalm 119:105 tells us, “The word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

It was during my time being lost that I realized how vital the light was to my negotiation through the terrain. Through my military career and my life, I have come to realize that the woods at Fort Polk stretched far beyond the swamps of Louisiana.

There will be times in our lives when we wander aimlessly through the darkness of reality. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your word.”

Our map to negotiating safely through life’s hazards has always been and will always be God’s word. We are to live our lives guided by his word.

There will be many times in our lives when we question the course we have set, desperately seeking the right direction or our true north. For those seeking direction in their lives, I encourage you to find your true north within the peace of his presence and the wisdom of his words.

I believe that C. S. Lewis captured the concept of true north best when he said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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