Remember paper maps? Ah, the good old days, when we navigated ourselves from one place to another, like pioneers! I loved paging through the giant U.S. atlas we kept in our living room, imagining myself traveling unknown routes.
I remember the first time I had to make use of that atlas on my own. I was living in Mankato, Minnesota (famous for being the place Pa Ingalls took his lumber in the Little House series). I was driving home to Rochester for the weekend, then to Eau Claire, Wisconsin (my alma mater) for a party one Saturday night. I had to drive straight back to Mankato after the party to be at church Sunday morning.
I had never driven from Eau Claire to Mankato, but I read in my trusty map that at the border, where I normally turned south to go to Rochester, I could continue straight on highway 60 all the way to Mankato and save time. (I was disproportionately proud of myself for discerning this. Like seriously, seriously proud).
So, armed with this information, I set off in my Ford Festiva (read “glorified bumper car”) at 9 pm after the party. In the dark. In a Wisconsin winter. Deer season. Brilliant.
Sure enough, I had a near miss with a deer that left me a little shaken. Shortly after, I arrived at my fateful turn. I could turn left and take the longer, known route through Rochester, or I could follow what I’d seen on the map and plow ahead. I plowed.
The first 10 miles of that road were a winding path through dark, snowy woods. No houses, no streetlights, no civilization at all. It didn’t look anything like what I had expected. Within minutes, my mind began to run wild with thoughts like:
What if this is the wrong road? Maybe I’m driving to Canada. This is going to take forever, and I’m going to fall asleep in the car, then crash. Or what if I hit ice and go off the road? There’s no one here to help me. I’ll die alone in my car. They’ll find my body two weeks from now, gnawed by wolves (lots of potential death in these scenarios). What have I done?!?
I doubted in the dark what I had seen in the light.
But every once in awhile, I drove past a sign that said, “Highway 60.” I was on the right road, whether it seemed like it or not.
I finally had to mentally grab hold of myself and say out loud, “Gina! You are ON highway 60! And the map said that if you stay on highway 60 you are getting to Mankato, so Just. Keep. Driving!”
And sure enough, I made it to Mankato.
I think of this story often when I navigate life. I can be so sure, when I spend time with God and his word, of what is true. I walk out confidently into the world, and then it looks anything but like what I expect. It’s harder. Darker. There are twists and turns I didn’t expect.
I can be gripped by anxiety and doubt. I question if I heard right. I wonder if the truth holds in this circumstance. I can think he’s led me astray.
When we lived in Singapore, I lived by my Singapore road guidebook. Singapore is not a driver friendly country, laid out on an easy to navigate grid. If you miss your turn, good luck-there’s no block to circle. So many times I pulled over and whipped that book out of the glove compartment to reorient myself.
This is how we need to live. We have to be people who live close to the truth about who we are and who he is. We have to keep reminding ourselves that he knows the way, he is our guide, and it’s true whether or not it looks like it’s true. Sometimes that means stopping again and again to reorient ourselves so we don’t end up wandering aimlessly or getting lost in lies. Pull over and ask for directions. It might take longer, but we’ll stay on the right track and go with confidence.
Bottom line friends: don’t doubt in the dark what you’ve seen in the light.
“But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take.” (Isaiah 42:16)