Being among the legion of people fitting the description of “directionally challenged” – we pretty much couldn’t find our way out of a large paper bag – I regard the Global Positioning System (GPS) as one of mankind’s greatest inventions.
How it works, I don’t know. When I’m using my GPS, does President Obama get regular updates on where I am? Is the NSA diligently monitoring my progress? Can the satellite tracking my vehicle tell if I’m eating French fries, or if I’m trying to find the local ESPN affiliate on the radio?
But who cares? It’s just a marvel to me that whether it’s the GPS built into your vehicle, a portable device, or even the navigation app on your smart phone, you tell it where you want to go and it provides a map (plus voice – I think her name is “Gertrude”) to guide you along your way.
Never fails. Right?
|A GPS can guide you to wherever you|
want to go. Which GPS do you use?
On a recent business trip I used the Google Maps app on my phone rather than reacquainting myself with our Garmin, and for the most part it worked great. Except for once. I was driving along the route “Gertie” had instructed when suddenly she announced, “Make a U-turn in 1,000 feet.” No warning. She hadn’t indicated a turn earlier that I had missed. She just wanted me to make a U-turn – and right now. Impulsive, if you ask me.
I thought, “This doesn’t make sense. I’m on the state highway I’m supposed to be on.” I knew because of MapQuest, printed directions I always bring as a stop-gap, in case the GPS gets confused. As had just happened, apparently.
But to be sure – I hate driving miles and miles out of my way, only to waste time backtracking – I did turn at the next light, swung around and headed back toward the intersection. Then Gertie advised me to turn left – back onto the highway, in the same direction I’d been traveling.
Good ole “Trust Me I Never Make a Mistake Gertie” had…made a mistake! Who knew? The next day I drove the same route, and Gertie made the same error. She’s sometimes wrong, it seems, but never in doubt.
This got me thinking about the other GPS I’ve used countless times, the one that truly never fails – God’s Positioning System. (I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again.) Early in my journey as a follower of Jesus, I learned this passage: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
My personal life – and often my professional life – have confirmed the truth of these verses. Reviewing the course of my journalistic career is one example. At the outset of my career, as a wet-behind-the-ears editor of a community newspaper in suburban Columbus, Ohio, if someone had explained where my vocational path would lead, I’d have responded emphatically, “I can’t get there from here!” And I would have been right. Because to get to where I am now, I’ve had to go to many other places first.
From New Jersey (where I grew up) to Houston, Texas (where I began college) to Ohio (where I finished college and started my first newspaper job) to suburban Philadelphia, back to Ohio, then to suburban Houston, and finally here to Chattanooga, Tenn. Even after arriving in Chattanooga, God has taken my family and me in directions we couldn’t have anticipated.
But unlike with Gertie and my Google Maps app, God’s directions have never failed. That’s not to say there haven’t been times – many times – when I wondered, “Lord, do You know what You’re doing?” In retrospect I’ve learned His answer has always been, “Yes, I do. Why do you ask?”
Proverbs 3:5-6 has a few caveats, however. We have to trust in the Lord – and not in ourselves. If we try to lean on our own understanding instead, we’ll find ourselves more confused than Gertie the Google Maps lady.
And hardest of all is acknowledging God in all our ways. We like to hold the Lord in reserve, kind of like a spare tire. “If I need you, I’ll let You know.” Many times we’re willing to acknowledge anything but God. But if – and when – we do submit to Him, recognizing He’s got a much better idea of what we need and where we need to go, He will indeed make our paths straight.
Even if those “straight paths” result in crisscrossing the map.