Our middle daughter was interested in cartography even as a young adolescent. She loves travel, and I suppose that has fueled her love of maps. She would sit in the back seat with the Rand McNally or AAA or some other paper route open in her lap while her sisters were typically reading or sleeping as the old family car rolled merrily down the interstate on one of our many long road trips. That was, of course, somewhat before the days of ubiquitous GPS cell phones which, even at this writing, her father and I have yet to own.
My husband’s usual position was in the driver’s seat (traditional, right?) and if we were lost, his usual position was to stubbornly plod ahead instead of “wasting time” by asking for directions (typical, right?). Bob has on numerous occasions referred to the “map in his head” and is incredulous that I clearly don’t possess such a gift. I imagine that growing up as one of four boys, and having three daughters and no sons of his own hasn’t helped that perception much. Nevertheless, I am usually content to be a passenger/navigator.
Of course, then there was the time we were coming home from yet another family vacation/reunion somewhere out West, New Mexico as the story goes. We had a suburban full of girls (nieces included) winding our way toward our Missouri home when, somewhere in the Oklahoma panhandle, my beloved pilot misinterpreted his psychic guidance signal (as well as the signage in a small town). Ten miles down the road, we were met with a billboard welcoming us to…
Okay, in his defense the signs on the town square to which our highway had led us were numerous and confusing, and most importantly, no expletives escaped his lips, even when after stopping the car to turn around, the engine wouldn’t start. Shades of the Twilight Zone…
Many have liken life to a journey, an adventure, a road, all carrying with the metaphor a sense of moving, preferably forward. It bears worth repeating, (because God repeats it many times in various ways), that for the Christian, not only are we very susceptible to untoward detours, but we are even more so provided with ways back onto the right path. Consider:
Just as road signs can become jumbled and confusing, what we expect to be signposts and guiding arrows in life can let us down. A personal mentor leads us astray, a trusted relationship is not as trustworthy as we once thought, a spiritual hero falls off the pedestal. Before we realize it, we may be in the wrong moral lane and miss our turn off. Our cause and effect expectations of “if-I-do-this-then-this-will-follow” don’t pan out as promised. Promised? By whom? Perhaps this is the first question to answer, and answer with uncompromising (if not painful) integrity.
• Then, getting past the blaming game, which is simply another way the Enemy helps us to waste valuable time, we must move on to fixing the situation. Time does not wait for us to have a pity party. This reminds me of another little family holiday when traveling a familiar way to see loved ones at Christmas. It was the way we usually went, but unbeknownst to us this particular passage over the railroad track was out of service and someone had prematurely removed the crossing barrier. Of course, it was covered with snow, so if anything looked out of sorts, it was adequately hidden. As in the past, we innocently started to drive over the crossing, only to get stuck about three feet from the track! (Same car, by the way.) There was a train scheduled to roll down this way, and so time was of the essence. Similarly, we should never waste time getting back on God’s road, even if it seemingly wasn’t our “fault” for getting off in the first place.
• The first step in finding our way back to the correct road is to admit
we’re on the wrong road. Our Father, Who loves us dearly, has many creative, oftentimes humorous, but certainly provoking ways of getting our attention. Some may be as large as the billboard announcing our arrival across state lines heading back toward the Rockies! Some may be more subtle. But God knows how to speak our language, whatever it may be. Our part is to pay attention, to listen, and to be honestly wanting His direction. Or at least wanting to want His direction. One of my personal favorites is from Isaiah: “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”
• It is to be expected that, the second we even consider the possibility that we are going the wrong direction and seek to recalculate our bearings, there will be opposition from an Enemy that will throw everything he can in our way. Just like our old car refusing to start after Bob pulled over to confirm where we were and how to get back, when we realize a change is needed, frustration, agitation, and fear are ready to open the flood gates for discouragement, doubt, and spiritual malaise. As difficult as it may be, getting back on track must be accomplished. Summoning all the resources that are made available to us, there is nothing more important at this juncture that to be on the road with God. If Bob had ignored the road sign, we would have ended up in the Pacific, rather than back home in Missouri. Even if it meant calling a tow truck, we must go the other way!
• Which brings up another thought. My husband was not the only one in the car, going the wrong way. He had the six of us girls with him, poor lad. (Anyone who has ever road tripped with women can fill in the blanks on this one…) This is important to consider in that since he was at the helm, we were somewhat effected by his navigational decisions. If this doesn’t strike a little fearful respect into leadership, then the followers should be forewarned! In other words, making sure our road is God’s road isn’t just about “me”.
• It was helpful in our case to backtrack from where we were to where we got off track and go from there. That might not always be the case in life, but it does present a potential option in some circumstances. What was the first wrong turn? And therefore, what can I do to prevent THAT from happening again? Do I need a more readable map? Do I compare the map with the road signs? Or (as is sometimes to my discredit in the passenger seat) do I need a better navigator to interpret the map with the road signs? It is said that knowledge is power, and prevention is very powerful knowledge indeed.
• Even if the car won’t start again, or the bridge is out the way we came, one thing about this journey with God: there is always, always, a way back to Him. All we have to do is to look down the road toward Him, and we will begin to realize that He is already looking at us, and always has been. The way back may not be easy, but with Him, it will be sure.
It was really good to pull into our driveway, even after (especially after) our little detour. Thankfully, the old car started up after a brief rest on the side of the road at the Colorado border.
And no tow truck was necessary (well, this time anyway).
(1) Isaiah 30:21(NASB)