I often attend religious conferences and formation programs; as expected, there are witnessing or sharing by members of the community. To be honest, at these times, I usually stick to my notes – jotting down only what I find interesting, necessary and useful.
During a conference I attended this March in Baguio, I was reviewing my notes when the next sharer got on stage. He was middle-aged and looked stern and matter-of-fact. Flipping through my earlier notes, he began to briefly describe himself, and then started to describe his wife.
I stopped. Did I hear him correctly? His manner was that of a stereotypical accountant – glasses, clean and short cut hair – I had expected him to rattle off numbers, not gush about his wife. In fact, I rarely heard men talk with such pride and passion about their wives – mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters, yes… but wives? It was rare. What struck me wasn’t just his tone, but the words he chose.
He called his wife his “True North“.
The The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, as posted in yourdictionary.com, states that to find True North is to “Get on the right course, proceed in the right direction, as in We’d better find true north before our competitors do. This term alludes to locating the position of the North Pole from a particular point [Slang; late 1900s]”.
The sharer lovingly spoke of his wife, who I noticed was standing by his side, she looked at her husband fondly as he began to describe their children. He shared how she brought direction into his muddled life. Brought him and their family closer to God. The rest of the speech was a blur – all but the words True North. Two simple words that I could not get out of my head.
I started to Google about it, reading everything I could – from maritime descriptions, to idiomatic expressions, to a literary one. I knew the term seemed familiar – it came from Message in a Bottle (a movie based on the book by Nicholas Sparks).
“Dear Catherine: I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you in so long. I feel I’ve been lost… no bearings, no compass. I kept crashing into things, a little crazy, I guess. I’ve never been lost before. You were my true north. I could always steer for home when you were my home. Forgive me for being so angry when you left. I still think some mistake’s been made… and I’m waiting for God to take it back. But I’m doing better now. The work helps me. Most of all, you help me. You came into my dream last night with that smile… that always held me like a lover… rocked me like a child. All l remember from the dream… is a feeling of peace. I woke up with that feeling… and tried to keep it alive as long as I could. I’m writing to tell you that I’m on a journey toward that peace. And to tell you I’m sorry about so many things. I’m sorry I didn’t take better care of you… so you never spent a minute being cold or scared or sick. I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to find the words… to tell you what I was feeling. I’m sorry I never fixed the screen door. I fixed it now. I’m sorry I ever fought with you. I’m sorry I didn’t apologize more. I was too proud. I’m sorry I didn’t bring you more compliments… on everything you wore and every way you fixed your hair. I’m sorry I didn’t hold on to you with so much strength… that even God couldn’t pull you away. Signed, All my Love, G.”
The way Nicholas Sparks used the words, were of course, very poetic, heart-wrenching and emotional. It didn’t take anything away from the speaker though, who I think was so inspired by his wife that he used the same words. True North.
It got me thinking. Who is my true north? Who is that someone who is my true compass, my true conscience? Have I found that person who steers me back to the right path whenever I lose my way?
As I look at the two forms soundly sleeping beside me, I smile. Yes, I have. My life may not be as perfect, as grand, or as trouble-free as those I know. But one thing is for sure. With God’s blessing, I have found my true north. I have found my home.