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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Direction Matters

Direction matters.  The popularity of mapping programs and GPSes is a testament to our fundamental desire to know where we’re going.   We’ve become so accustomed to being able to pull up maps and driving routes on our computers and phones, the idea of heading out the door without a clue is preposterous.

By contrast, LIFE has no such map-ability.  There are no satellites to detect our current position.  No pins to indicate our final destination.  No way to zoom out and look at the big picture.  Our vision is frustratingly limited!

Nevertheless, we are considered responsible for the trajectory of our lives.  They say it’s hindsight that’s 20/20, yet we’re expected to plan our paths as if foresight were just as good.  Some people appear to be fairly good at mapping out their destinies, but most of us have found our ways through trial and error. 

The consequences of wrong “life” turns can range from mildly irritating to devastatingly life-altering.  It’s no wonder so many people experience anxiety.  What if this move is the wrong decision?  What if the job isn’t a good fit?  What if this investment doesn’t pay off?  What if I find a better deal later?  What if I change my mind?  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if somebody gets hurt?  What if I screw up?  What if people think badly of me?

The barrage of doubts our minds are capable of filling themselves with is enough to make us crazy… or apathetic.  When it comes right down to it, what we really want are directions.

Those of us who seek guidance from the Divine may find ourselves just as frustrated.  While God claims in Scripture to be our Guide, He doesn’t use Google Earth or offer us a “God Positioning System” to simplify things.  His way of directing us is more of a subtle dance that requires our full attention and our willingness to move forward… often without any information about where we’re headed.  So long, Auto-Pilot.  Following the Lord is not for the lazy or the faint of heart!

I sometimes envision life’s path as being made up of brick pavers.  I can look behind me and see all the pavers that have led to where I now stand, but there are no pavers in front of me to indicate where my path is leading.  I may have some ideas, but life is full of surprises.  Each day, I painstakingly add additional pavers to my path, one by one, carefully charting my next couple of steps forward, hoping I’m headed in a direction that’s… good. 

To complicate things, not all pavers are alike: there are square ones and round ones, straight ones and curved ones.  As I survey the myriad of options I have for constructing this path of mine, I can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed.  Some days my progress seems very slow.  It’s tempting to just grab all the square pavers and hurriedly make a nice, predictable path straight forward.  But, inevitably, there will be obstacles.  I strain to see as far ahead as possible to determine where those obstacles are and plan around them, but here’s where that whole limited vision thing factors in. 

The fact is, I just can’t see or know it all.  My direction has to come from somewhere outside of my limited point of view.

Several years ago, I was charged by a therapist with coming up with a mental “safe place.”  The location, imaginary or real, was to be used as a tool for delving into past pain from a place of security.  I chose the lap of God as my place of safety and imagined a big, wizardly grandfather-type seated on a throne with kindness in his eyes and gentleness in His touch.  It worked well for me and, to this day, I can handle just about anything from that lap. 

It occurred to me recently that I can do this exercise anytime I'm feeling overwhelmed.  Daily, I can go to God, crawl up on His lap, nuzzle my head into His chest, and ASK.  “Today is a new day, God.  What pavers should I pick up today and where should I place them?  I have so many things I need to do that I don’t even know where to start.  I don’t want to waste the day.  I don’t want to waste my life.  I want my path to be one of destiny, not of tragedy.  I am afraid.  You are my courage.  I am overwhelmed.  You are my peace.  I am unsure.  You are my Guide.  Keep me here with you.  Keep me safe.  Show me the way and I will walk in it.”

The Psalms say a lot about godly direction:

16:11 (NIV)- You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

18:30 (NIV)- As for God, His way is perfect: the Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.

25: 4-5 (NLT)- Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.

25:12 (NLT)- Who are those who fear the Lord?  He will show them the path they should choose.

32:8 (NLT)- The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.

37:23-24 (NLT)-The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

116:9 (NLT)- And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!

119:105 (NKJV)- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

142:3a (NLT)- When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.

143:8 (NLT)- Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

And in Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT), Moses tells Joshua- “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

These are just a few of the beautiful promises God makes to us if we will seek and follow Him.  There’s no map or rubric for figuring things out.  Finding your way with God is a process that will take you up and down mountains, through deserts, across waters, and around bends you never thought you’d travel. 

The old adage, “One day at a time” is helpful, but inadequate.  Some days you have to take things moment by moment.  But the promise of God’s active presence- guiding, going before, never abandoning, never failing- takes away the pressure of having to figure things out in advance and stress over every (mis)step.  He tells us clearly in His word that, if we will trust Him, He will show us the way.  What better guarantee is there?  The pathway of peace is found in the presence of the Lord!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. - Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT

© Stephanie Yax:  2012