Have you ever wanted to share some insights and ideas with others in Scouting that are bigger in scope than the regular “Scoutmaster’s Minute”? A quick thought is always nice, but sometimes you want something a bit bigger that you can use as a spring board for greater discussion and contemplation during some scout event. Let me share with you a short article that I shared with the Scouts and Scouters working at the BSA Philmont Scout Ranch a few years ago.
I have had the opportunity to serve as a Chaplain at the Ranch for a few years, and was recently asked to submit for inclusion in the staff newspaper (PhilNews) a Chaplain Corner. It was to be “words of wisdom and inspiration” that anyone and any faith would find useful. I’m not very good with original thoughts, but I do know what I like and what has be beneficial with others with whom I’ve had the opportunity to counsel with in the past. With that type of guidance and direction, here is what was printed. I’ve entitled it, “Walking in Circles.” Feel free to make it yours as you encourage all to do some reflection on their lives.
Walking in Circles
Have you ever heard the old saying that people who get lost tend to walk in circles?
Jan L. Souman, a German psychologist, wanted to determine scientifically if this was true. He took participants of an experiment to a large forest area and to the Sahara desert and used a global positioning system to track where they went. They had no compass or any other device. Instructions to them were simple: walk in a straight line in the direction indicated.
Dr. Souman later described what happened: Some of them walked on a cloudy day, with the sun hidden behind the clouds and with no reference points in view. … They all walked in circles, with several of them repeatedly crossing their own path without noticing it. Other participants walked while the sun was shining, with faraway reference points in view. These followed an almost perfectly straight course. This study has been repeated by others with different methodologies. All returned similar results.
Without visible landmarks, human beings tend to walk in circles. Without spiritual landmarks, mankind wanders as well. Without the word of God (no matter our differing faith traditions), we walk in circles. Both as individuals and as societies, we see this pattern repeated over and over since the beginning of time. When we lose sight of the word of God, we tend to get lost.
Scriptures and spiritual teachings are the word of God. They are God’s landmarks that show the way we should travel in order to draw closer to God and reach worthy goals. Are we recognizing and walking toward these real and valuable landmarks?
Spiritual landmarks are indispensable for keeping us on the path that God would have us walk. They give clear direction as to the way we should travel—but only if we recognize them and walk toward them. If we refuse to be guided by these landmarks, they become meaningless, decorative features that have no purpose but to break up the flatness of the horizon. It’s not enough to go solely by our instincts. It’s not enough to have the best of intentions. It won’t do to rely only on our natural senses.
Even when we think we are following a straight spiritual path, without true landmarks to guide us, we will tend to wander. Let us, therefore, open our eyes and see the landmarks our benevolent God has provided to His children. Let us read, hear, and apply the word of God as it has been and is being taught to us. Once we have recognized the spiritual landmarks offered by a loving God, we should set our course by them. We should also make regular course corrections as we orient ourselves toward spiritual landmarks.
Let us pray with real intent to know what God would have us do. Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire. True communication with God can and does bring miracles into our lives. In this way, we will not wander in circles but walk with confidence and certainty along that path that God would have us walk. As a Chaplain, I ask of each of us to take the opportunity Scouting offers us to truly orient ourselves toward spiritual landmarks. Let’s not walk in circles, but walk in a straight and confident manner in all that we do and say.
Author: David A. Wilson | Philmont Scout Ranch Chaplain Coordinator