When I travel to a destination that is not familiar, I depend on GPS to assist with directions. I subscribe to OnStar which provides the advantage of a real person to guide me when I don’t know the actual address. The audio instructions include minimal visual guidance limited to an arrow, the street name, and the distance before the turn. Since my car’s model doesn’t come with visual map guidance in the console, I also may depend on my phone’s travel app to show turn by turn “pictures” for complicated intersections or evening driving. With my cell phone secured in the phone cradle on the dash and OnStar activated, I head out with confidence.
That certainty of a hassle-free trip can be short-lived. Few journeys are simple drives without a few “surprises” down the road.
One advantage of getting older is perspective. The following are some of the similarities and lessons I have observed and/or learned (usually the hard way) on road trips and through following God.
If you haven’t been there before, use your resources.
It’s nice to have someone with you to help navigate. But, sometimes, you have to go alone. I have the advantage of two sources of ongoing guidance when I drive.
- Spiritually, the primary source of wisdom and direction come through prayer and scripture. The Holy Spirit provides “in the moment” guidance along the way.
- In addition to these resources, seeking wise counsel from seasoned Christians is also important. If you listen carefully, you can learn from their obedience and may avoid some of the mistakes they experienced. However, their journey is not yours, so expect some new “lessons” to be learned.
- Side note: Bible characters also provide valuable insights into obedience and disobedience to God’s leading – heed it. I often wonder what they would say/do if given another opportunity.
- In the here and now, others who have walked obediently with God’s leading can encourage you along the way to stay faithful to the path God has you on.
“For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” Ro 1:11–12. NLT
The path is rarely straightforward.
If all destinations were at the end of one road, it would be easy to navigate. Nearly all routes include a series of turns. Just when you are cruising along, you must slow down to take a turn. Sometimes you know the turn is coming. Other times, the map navigation voice interrupts your progress with a change in direction.
- Following God is similar. You may think you know how to get there, but you also risk a lot of wrong turns if you rely on your experiences – or those of others. Or, even if prior encounters were similar, God may ask you to go a different route this time.
- As instructed, Moses struck the rock one time (Ex. 17:6). The next time, God told him to speak to the rock (Num 20:8), but he followed the same road and struck it in disobedience (Num 20:11).
- Sharing the gospel is the same destination, even if there are different routes to get there. Without changing the message, we need to adjust the method to the recipient.
“But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 1 Co 9:21–23. NLT
Distracted driving is dangerous.
On long stretches without turns, we don’t hear any instructions from the GPS system and it’s too easy to become sidetracked by the scenery, music on the radio, or getting lost in thought. We may tend to “go with the flow.” The problem is that others on the road may be heading somewhere other than out destination.
- During the quiet times when we aren’t “hearing” from God, we may begin to overthink and doubt that we heard from God at all. Our enemy loves to see us spiral down in doubt and insecurity.But, not all diversions are bad or sinful things. Our adversary is just as happy to have us entangled in neutral activities or even “good things” as long as it keeps us from being obedient to the better – our calling from God.
“So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” Heb 2:1. NLT
Unexpected delays should be expected.
Traffic and road construction steal precious time, especially when you’re running late. Your mom’s instruction to be prepared, have enough fuel, and to leave early to allow for delays was good advice. It’s also helpful to bring along a snack, just in case traffic comes to a complete standstill!
- Similarly, God pauses or even stops us along our route with obstacles – times of testing and growth for our faith.
- Perhaps, the construction we face is God moving in the lives and circumstances of us and others who are integral to his plan.
- Or, maybe learning patience is the goal…it’s a dreaded, but necessary fruit.
- We should be obedient and prepared for obstacles that delay us from reaching the destination in our time frame. We’re on God’s time table.
“You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith —more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pe 1:5–7. HCSB
Detours can be chosen or unintentional…Recalculate
Sometimes, the route is bypassed to refuel, get food, or attend to another task. Unplanned detours happen when I miss a turn or take the wrong exit. Either way, GPS systems provide a means of “recalculating” the route to help me get back on the road to reach the original destination.
- When my spiritual life gets off track, God’s grace and mercy “re-map” the route. He guides me turn by turn back to the plans He intended for my life.
- So often, being obedient to God’s call means that we need to take a step of faith first. Belief is knowing that God can – Faith is knowing he will. Whether we get off track intentionally, or unintentionally – God is right behind us to help.
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isa. 30:21, ESV