Dead Reckoning

I will lead the blind along ways they don’t know; on a path which they don’t know about I will guide them.  

Isaiah 42:16   


My family appreciates my astonishing ability to lead them on wilderness hikes without the aid of hiking trails or maps. Without my innate powers of dead reckoning, there are countless box canyons that my wife and kids would never have had the opportunity to see and enjoy.  

The ability to navigate by dead reckoning is a useful talent, and I’m so glad I can share my gift with others. But, sometimes I get it into my head that the best way to follow the Lord is by my same sense of dead reckoning. I have this internal gyroscope that tells me the fastest way “up” is up. Jesus insists the fastest way “up” is down.  He says, “He who humbles himself will be exalted,” and tells me to sit at the foot of the table when I attend dinner parties.   

It’s all quite confusing. But, recently, driving to church has helped clear things up for me.  


One of my favorite places to be is a remote Montana community in the West Kootenai. I can’t describe where it is by telling you what it’s close to because it’s not close to anything. But they do have a church there where I worship.  

As the crow flies, it’s only 8 ½ miles from my home. But, if you try to get there by dead reckoning, you will thrash through mountain ranges and no one will ever hear from you again.  

If you take the road to the West Kootenai, it is 33 miles, and the directions you take make little sense. When Pinkham Creek Road meets the highway, you know that if you turn right and head north you will be only a few miles away. But, instead, you must turn left and drive south for several miles in the opposite direction.   

That’s the only way to reach the one bridge that crosses the Koocanusa 


In Proverbs it says there’s a path that seems to us like the right way to go, but, in the end it leads to death. Common sense – confidence in our spiritual knack for dead reckoning will lead us to a miserable place.  If you always insist on taking the path in life that makes the most sense, you’re on the wrong road.  

On several occasions, the Bible observes that intelligent, scholarly people are less likely to follow Jesus than others. Why is that? It’s not because they know something the rest of us don’t, but simply because they’re more prone to trusting in their intelligence rather than in the Lord.  


Isaiah compares the Lord’s guidance to the leading of a blind man. The blind cannot see how the path should go, so they simply trust that their Guide knows where he’s going.  It’s just as well the blind don’t do things my way; without vision they wouldn’t be able to appreciate the beauty of a box canyon anyway.  

(copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)