Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Trust the compass by Ros Bayes

When I was teaching, I used to accompany students every year on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award orienteering task. Students were given a starting point, a finishing point and an Ordnance Survey map. It was up to them how they got from start to finish – there were several possible routes. They would study the map, plan their route and list everything they needed to take for a fairly gruelling hike followed by an overnight bivouac.

It was not for me to tell them which route to take, nor to correct their errors. They had to use the map to work these things out for themselves. This was just as well, as I am seriously challenged when it comes to things pictorial. I have a mental block about interpreting graphs, diagrams, charts, etc. Map reading is not my forte.

The first time, I learned a very valuable lesson. My little band of year 9s set out with high hopes and higher confidence on their planned path, deep into the woods. Then things began to get complicated. There were so many more paths between the trees than were marked on the map, some of them doubtless made by deer and badgers, and very hard to distinguish from the true path.

We were told to allow the students to make mistakes, and only step in if it became hopeless. Sometimes we would stop at a fork and an argument would erupt as to which path was correct. There were fruitless wanderings and retracing steps. The students grew disheartened, and as they lost confidence in their route and became discouraged, they seemed to feel the weight of their backpacks much more than when they were striding ahead with assurance. They complained, and lost patience with each other. I was of no help to them, other than to keep their spirits up (I would get them marching along to rousing choruses of “Lloyd George knew my father” and “Always look on the bright side of life”).

Then I remembered something. As a teenager I had frequently sailed on the North Sea. Often, the landmarks ashore and the lights of buoys and beacons were enough to steer a course by. But when fog descended, all these visual markers disappeared, and the only hope of arriving safely was to plot the course on the chart and set the compass to take us there. Then no matter how disorientated we felt, even if we seemed to be going round in circles or back the way we had come, I learned that the compass was a far more reliable guide than my feelings. I grew to respect the compass and put my faith in it. It never lied and we always ended up at our planned destination.

Once I remembered this, the D of E walk became much easier. Every time we came to a fork and the students were unsure of the path, I got them to check the map and see which direction they should be going. Then I made them take out the compass and see which path did in fact go in that direction. They soon got the hang of this and progress accelerated. They learned what I had discovered on those sailing trips many years before – the compass never lies. You can trust it.

There came a point in my life some years ago when, newly single and needing to earn my own living, I felt God was telling me to give up my reliable teaching salary and make my living from writing, a far more uncertain source. And as I contemplated what to do and discussed it with wise friends and pastors, I came to see that the peace of God, ruling in my heart (Colossians 3.16) was like the compass. The right decision is the one that has God’s signature peace all over it. And so I handed in my notice at school because that option gave me no peace, and I trusted the compass and took the unlikely-looking path.

I had one published book at that time; it has been followed by thirteen more and God has more than amply repaid the trust I placed in the compass of His peace. Once again I have found the compass never lies.

Ros Bayes has 8 published and 4 self-published books, as well as some 3 dozen magazine articles. She is the mother of 3 daughters, one of whom has multiple complex disabilities, and she currently works for Through the Roof ( as their Training Resources Developer, and loves getting paid to write about disability all day. You can find her blog at and her author page at Follow her on Twitter: @rosbwriting.


  1. I remember those sailing days, Ros! I learned so much and loved every minute. XX