I’m pretty decent at directions…so long as Tom-Tom is in the passenger seat next to me. Yes, Tom-Tom, the other man in my life. As long as his robotic voice pipes up, telling me, “In 200 yards, turn left,” I can navigate myself to pretty much anywhere on the map. But if for some reason he runs out of juice, I am in a world of hurt.
The problem isn’t just that I get turned around; it’s that my entire internal compass is catawampus. I’ll approach to a fork in the road and feel the overwhelming urge to turn right…when that’s precisely the opposite way I need to go.
Alas, my spiritual GPS can be just as catawampus. Everything in my gut might be telling me to go one way when the Spirit is clearly saying the opposite.
Remember that story about Lot in Genesis? I’ve always been so distracted by the image of apocalyptic fire and Mrs. Lot being turned into a salt shaker that I never noticed what happens later in the chapter—almost as a postscript.
When the angel directs Lot and his family out of the city, he tells them to escape to the mountains. But Lot, in all his navigational bluster, is sure that’s the wrong way. “I cannot go to the mountains,” he says. “Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die” (Genesis 19:19).
It’s only ten verses later that we see Lot make a U-turn and head—where else?—to the mountains: “Lot left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there, and he went to live in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters” (Genesis 19:30).
Why, I wonder, do I presume to know which way is up, all the while doubting the one with the power to send the fire and sulfur in the first place? And perhaps more to the point, why don’t I listen the first time around? Yes, God is gracious about second chances, but it would be so much simpler not to have to pack up twice.
Maybe this isn’t just about my directional impairments, after all; maybe it’s also about who I believe God to be. When he directs me away from a certain path, I wrongly assume it’s because he’s some kind of killjoy. The reality, however, is that he may be blocking that path to protect me.
So this year I want to do better at listening to God’s gracious directions the first time around. It would save me a lot of effort…and I sure won’t miss that patient reprimand: “Recalculating route…”