The North Star

Sometimes God speaks to me. Actually, He speaks a lot, but I only listen sometimes. After a lifetime of loving God, I’m still learning to listen to His voice. Sometimes it seems loud and clear. Other times it takes a while to understand as if I was listening to Kelly explain something from another room. I can catch a few key points but have to listen with intent to get the whole message. Even then, sometimes parts need to be repeated.

I’m not an astronomer—I was never even a Boy Scout—but I can name a couple different constellations, such as Orion and the big dipper 1. I also know how to use the big dipper to identify Polaris—the North Star—and on clear nights I’ll often look up to find it.

A couple weekends ago I was at our church’s annual men’s Emerge conference, camping with around 1,200 other men. On the first night, my team of around 40 guys was hanging out around the campfires at our site. It was a little cold, but the night skies were very clear.

Without thinking, I did a quick scan of the sky until I found the North Star. Typically, this is an entirely unremarkable process, and I rarely think twice about it. It’s just something I tick off of my mental checklist, like brushing my teeth. For some reason, though, on that Thursday night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the star. For the next couple hours, I kept finding myself glancing up to the heavens as if I knew I had something to learn from Polaris.

Polaris is unique in the northern hemisphere. It is visible throughout the year from anywhere with a clear view of the night sky. Since it is nearly directly above Earth’s north pole, you can always use it to determine which way is north. It never moves in the sky. It’s always in the same spot. From our perspective on Earth, all of the other stars in the sky seem to orbit around Polaris. Some long-exposure photos of the night sky really illustrate this better than I can describe.

While other stars and constellations move across the sky throughout the night, you could point a telescope at the North Star and leave it in that position. Then anytime you decided to look, it would still be visible from your telescope.

The next day was still kind of chilly, but the skies were clear again. In the light of the day I was able to admire the desert mountains that surrounded our camp. At one point I noticed that I was looking at the ridge directly beneath where I had seen the North Star the night before.

Then it hit me. Right then, at the very instant, in the middle of that sunny day, Polaris was in exactly the same place it had been the night before. I couldn’t see it any more because the brightness of our own sun was overpowering the light from the distant stars. But it was there. I have no doubt it was there. As long as I have some other tool, like a compass, to show which way is north, I can very reliably tell you where you can expect to see Polaris when the stars become visible.

The second night was noticeably warmer due to the incoming clouds. While hanging out by the campfires that night, I was able to unzip my hoodie a bit, but when I looked up to see the stars, none were visible behind the clouds. But even though I couldn’t see it, Polaris was still there.

God was talking to me again, and by this point, I was starting to listen—or at least trying to. It turns out that He was talking to me about… talking to me.

So, I know that in the past God has given me a glimpse of what He has planned for me and my family. Just like I can only recognize a few constellations, I don’t have a full understanding of this plan. That’s OK, though, because I do understand a small part of it. I know when I’m moving towards, and away from, this plan. It is “my north” and it does not vary.  Like all of the other stars in the heavens, I know that my life is supposed to revolve around this vision.

Sometimes other things, just like the brightness of our sun, overpower the vision of the plan. So when I approach the cares of my life, other responsibilities, and even “good things” like going to church or talking to someone about God, I rightfully focus on those things. They’re important. They’re clear. They’re bright. They’re good to focus on. God wants me to pay attention to them. But they are not the vision—the plan—that He has for our lives. I can’t see the plan right then because other things are demanding my focus, but the plan is still there.

Other times things become cloudy, or even foggy. Sometimes I wonder if I was wrong about that glimpse He gave me. Sometimes I feel so lost that I wonder if I’m going the right way at all, or if I’ll ever get another picture of what He has planned. Is the plan ahead of me, or behind me? I can’t always tell.

But I have a compass. I have a guide. Even when I can’t see the plan anymore, the Holy Spirit that lives inside me, the Living Word of God, keeps me aligned. I can’t see it, but He tells me “it’s still right over there, and this is what it looks like”. He reassures me that the vision is real, even if I can’t see it right now. 2

This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

God does not lie. He gave me that vision. It will be completed, even if I don’t know when. From God’s perspective, the vision is already complete, and at some point, my perspective will catch up to His. It will stop being a “glimpse” and will become completely clear.

  1. I even know that the big dipper isn’t actually a constellation itself, but a part of Ursa Major
  2. While writing this, I’ve been listening to a brand new album by Steffany Gretzinger on Spotify. I often work and write with music in the background to drown out the other distractions. As I was typing the paragraph about having a compass and a guide, I started to hear the words that she was singing for the first time. “When I lose direction, when I can’t see the stars, if we get disconnected, I’ll sing my way back to Your heart.” You might call that a coincidence, but I choose to believe that’s just some timely reassurance from my guide that He knows the way to my vision.

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