Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Recalculating . . . recalculating . ....

Recalculating . . . recalculating . . . recalculating

Thanks to my frequently over-generous husband, I have a GPS device (global positioning system) to guide me when I'm heading someplace unfamiliar. I rarely use it, as I enjoy a good sense of direction and read maps well. However, on a couple of recent trips to out of town locations, I decided to see how it worked.

A soothing voice supplied succinct instructions (that female voice coming out of it means I must refer to this device as a "her" rather than an "it") and I docilely complied. Of course, at some point, I deviated just a bit--to stop and get something to eat, or fill up with fuel. Immediately, I would hear the "recalculating . . . recalculating . . . recalculating . . ." message and then she would spit out a set of instructions to get me back to the original route. When, on occasion, I refused to comply with her recalculated instructions, she would eventually give in and offer a new route--but always with the same destination in mind.

I discovered that she gives instructions to turn or merge on a highway only about a mile before reaching the turning or merge point. Otherwise, she stays silent. Nothing, no words, no feedback. I found when I was driving a long distance on a highway that I wanted her to say something like, "You are doing great--heading in the right direction. Good job!"

I was little spooked to discover just how much she knew about me. A friend who was riding with me on one trip could look at her and tell me exactly how fast I was driving--and therefore know my compliance level with the posted speed limit. She (the device, that is) seemed to have a very good handle on exactly when I would arrive at my destination, clearly taking into account how well I was observing the speed limits.

I kind of liked her (the device, that is) but there was something about the periodic announcements that she was "recalculating" when I made an unanticipated turn that made me consider just how much the GPS device is like God. After all, isn't God always working in our lives to redeem our various mistakes and misdirections--as though there is a constant celestial "recalculating" going on? I've never particularly held with the theology that there is one perfect path that we are ideally intended to follow. Nonetheless, I do sense that there is a consistent goal--that of becoming fully in the image of God, and therefore living as more developed human beings, able to love openly and give thoroughly and grow into socially, emotionally, volitionally, and spiritually mature people. We take so many bypaths on the way--and just like my GPS, God consistently and patiently recalculates and seeks to get us heading again toward the goal.

Then there was the lack of feedback while I drove on the same highway for an extended distance. Where was the pat on the back? Yet those who have gone deep into the heart of God and have intentionally chosen lives of transformational holiness have in common this experience: the dark night of the soul where it seems impossible to hear the voice of God or sense that Holy Presence. I seem to have this insatiable need for someone to say to me, "Good job!" I want to hear those words of affirmation from someone else. But the call to maturity says, "Learn to trust yourself as one who has practiced the holy habits for years" during those times of silence. Much soul shaping takes place in the quiet.

Finally, there was what seemed like to me only last minute instructions to turn. I wanted to know miles ahead of time that a turn was imminent, but she disregarded my desires. I only found out a short time before the change of direction. How like life that is! We really don't know the future, however much we might like to think we can control it. Instead, the turns come and our job is to go with them, finding our bearings again in the new direction before us.

Recalculating . . . recalculating . . . recalculating . . . we all do it all the time as we engage in life and death matters. I find comfort in knowing that the Creator takes my twists and turns into account and continually offers me direction to the goal, even when I choose the ways that may not be the best or straightest of paths.

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