When the Needle Disappears, Part 2

For Part One of “When the Needle Disappears” click here: https://johncnewton.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/when-the-needle-disappears/

Disorientation is one of life’s toughest challenges. We wrestle with finding our place in this world and look to outside constants to ascertain who we are — and where we are.

Whenever I fly I love to sit by the window so that I can look down at the ground and try to identify where I am. I love to see landmarks like rivers, mountain ranges, volcanic fields or lakes and know how far the plane has gone and how far it still has to go. When I sit away from the window it drives me nuts because in the back (and front) of my brain I want top know where I am. I have an innate need for orientation. Deep in my heart I need to be grounded in where I am, what I am and who I am. During times of massive change, physical struggle, or spiritual strife, I get disoriented and it seems to throw my whole state of being into an emotional roller coaster.

You know, over the course of my life there have been many constants that have helped me decide where I am and who I am. One constant is peer evaluation. When I worked for businesses, for example, I received daily feedback from my co-workers that validated my personality, my ability as a newspaper or radio communicator, and my value to the “team.” When I worked my last church job I received emotional and spiritual support from my co-workers, too. This peer evaluation helped me to know who I was as a person and what impact — if any — I had on people around me. My peers helped to orient me.

Another constant was my “personal life,” or for me, my surroundings outside of the office. For six years I lived in apartments, two years a place, and, even though the outside location changed regularly, the inside was my oriented domain. It was my stuff set where I wanted in a place I felt comfortable. I was accepted. By myself. Which sounds weird but it is part of the orientation process. My last rental house was my home for six years. Six years was the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life. That house, while not my house in ownership, was my home. Yesterday, when I moved out, I felt so incredibly disoriented that I nearly went insane.

My worldly goods.

My stuff wasn’t where I wanted it any more. It was piled in boxes in my parents’ garage — a cube of worldly goods stacked temporarily until the next big move. Now, when I need something, I circle my possessions like a shark and try to recognize boxes, bags, bins and other holding tanks just so I can find what I need. It’s very strange.

There are spiritual constants that orient me, as well, but I won’t go into great lengths on those. There is a constant as a Christian, as a created and loved being that is gifted and called by God to live for Him. There is a constant in knowing that sin and evil has been judged by God and will one day be destroyed. And constant in the fact that I can win over temptation through the power of the Holy Spirit; and that if I seek God with an honest heart, I will find Him. Grace is a constant, as is love.

Even a homeless man can know for certain that he is loved by God.

But life can get really tough when most of the physical constants are gone. At least, during times when I can’t see them. It’s just like a compass without a needle. Or maybe one with a fifth direction: North-south-east-west-lost.

When the needle seems to disappear, all of that feeling of normalcy goes with it. Right now, for example, I feel very disoriented. Yesterday I moved out of my rental house because I couldn’t afford to live there any more. It was tough. So I’ve set up shop at my parents’ house, my stuff still stacked in their garage, my office and bedroom now in their front guest room. I very much feel like I’m living out of a suitcase. Except my suitcase is currently being used to store old shoes or Tupperware or something, so I’m living out of a plastic bag. Yeah, I pack fancy.

There are still a few constants for me and I cling to them with great abandon. I know that my life is still pointed towards Scotland. This is a solid call and a strong desire for me. But I don’t know how I’m going to get there — or when. I’m simply trusting in God’s provision and hanging on until He opens doors. I’m still knocking, mind you. But waiting. With faith that is not my own. In fact, life is ALL faith right now. Sadly, the world and faith are like oil and water. It takes a lot of money to live in this world and when sources of income dry up or fail to materialize, it can be tough to hang on. So I’m scrapping for income. Five dollars here, nine there, a gift card from Christmas, rice and beans… etc. all are staples of a life lived in faith. No more $2,000 paychecks. Just day by day. By day by day…

How does one re-orient themselves when the needle disappears? Spiritually I’d point to Psalm 73. Click here for a quick essay of mine on this Psalm. Physically, I have no concrete answer. I’m still trying to figure that one out. What does one do when life gets turned upside down? How can they remain grounded as a resident of earth? ‘Tis a strange blend, the spiritual and physical. As soon as I have answers, I’ll let you know. Stay tuned for Part 3, I guess!

— John

I wrote a lyric a few years back on the subject of “lostness.” It’s rough but it may fit the subject.


Feeling lost and all alone
Can you hear me calling,
Calling for my home?
Can you hear me calling?

The winds of time, they shift and blow
the sands of my life. Where do they go?
The ocean waves, they swell and grow
my fears and worries.

And silence burns in the shattered soul of the prodigal

The compass hands point north and south
When e’re they’re showing. Where are they now?
How I wonder, Lord, what life’s all about
In between faith and doubt?

And silence burns in the shattered soul of the prodigal son
Lift me up, make these pieces whole; Father make me one