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Looking for Landmarks

The journey through life

by Joanne Sincock (revised, originally published in 2005)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the need to choose our influences carefully.

Preparation and materials

  • None required.


  1. Have you ever found yourself lost? Perhaps you’ve been in a car on your way to a wedding and the directions you’ve been given haven’t been very clear and the satnav has stopped working! Maybe you’ve gone round and round looking for signposts to your destination, only to take hours to reach it because there aren’t any.

  2. If someone gives you directions to an unfamiliar place, it’s usually much easier to find your way by looking for landmarks. Maybe something along the lines of, ‘Go past the library, turn left at the King’s Arms and then right after the postbox . . . if you get to the town hall, you’ve gone too far.’

  3. Landmarks are very important when we’re a long way from home, but they can be just as important when we’re at home. If you’ve had a long walk home, the sight of a building or even a familiar tree will reassure you that there’s not much further to go.

  4. So, landmarks give us direction and reassurance when we are travelling, but also in the way we live our lives.

    All of us need someone or something to guide us in the choices we make about:

    - how to behave
    - how to treat other people
    - what is right and wrong
    - how we want to live our lives

  5. If we follow every trend or fashion, we may lose track of who we are and what is the right way to behave. We need something or someone to act as a landmark to which we can look if life becomes difficult or uncertain.

  6. These landmarks may include our families, friends, teachers, memories, beliefs and conscience. For Christians, the teachings of the Bible represent a major landmark that both directs and reassures them throughout their lives.

  7. The story you are about to hear is all about someone who lost direction because he failed to choose a suitable landmark.

    Furrows and Landmarks

    In the days when farmers had to plough their fields by hand, it was considered important to keep the lines (called furrows) nice and straight.

    It was young Tom’s first go at ploughing a field, but try as he might, he couldn’t keep the furrows straight. Indeed, after a couple of hours, the furrows were taking on the shape of a large letter S, stretching across the field.

    After lunch, Tom sought out one of the workmen on the farm. The man was called Old Ned and he had learnt the art of ploughing behind a pair of horses. Tom asked him for some advice. The old man explained that it was essential to line up one’s eye with an object in the far distance and keep heading for it.
    ‘That way,’ he said, ‘you’ll keep the furrow straight.’

    So, Tom went off, and put the advice into action. However, at the end of the afternoon, his furrows were even more zigzagged than they had been in the morning.

    That evening, Tom sought out Old Ned again, and explained that in spite of carrying out the advice he had been given, he had still failed to get the furrows straight. The old man raised his eyebrows and looked thoughtfully into the middle distance. Then, he asked, ‘What was it that you kept your eyes on?’
    ‘Well,’ replied the young man, ‘it was a cow that happened to be grazing in the next field.’

    Tom hadn’t fixed his eyes on something unmoving, but on something changeable!

Time for reflection

Like poor Tom in the story, we need to be careful which landmarks we choose in our lives. Let’s trust in strong, stable landmarks that will always lead us in the right direction.

Dear God,
Help us to set good landmarks for ourselves as we take the journey of life.
Help us to fix our eyes upon good and helpful things.
Please be a landmark in our lives.
Help us to walk in the light
And plough a straight furrow.

Publication date: June 2018   (Vol.20 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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