Thursday, June 9, 2011

Faith, Hope, and the GPS

by Barbara Early

My husband (of twenty-five years this Sunday) teasingly calls me “geographically dyslexic” based on my ability to, when given a choice, always take a wrong turn. I can read a map, but trying to use it or following directions while driving? Hopeless case.

But with the GPS, I can drive along, allowing the device to co-pilot me. I turn when it tells me to turn. Go straight when it tells me to. Step-by-step, I follow, and I can get anywhere. Almost.

One day I was driving in Pennsylvania—visiting a church I used to be a member of on the way home from a writers conference. I Googled a map, but the GPS took me a different, presumably shorter, way. So I happily followed the GPS, which directed me off the toll roads and through picturesque countryside. It was lovely. Until I got to the bridge. Which was closed.

I circled back to the last intersection, and detoured around. I figured the device would recalculate. But since apparently there were not many crossings of whatever body of water I was trying to cross (by this point, I was really lost), it kept insisting I make a u-turn. So I drove farther away, hoping it would recalculate another path. Finally, instead of telling me to take a u-turn, it gave me new directions. I travelled down one lane roads, some paved, stopping at one point to allow turkeys to cross. Eventually the roads got bigger and I found myself…right in front of that same stupid closed bridge. Don’t ask me how, but I did eventually make it there—and in time for church.

Another time, I drove 90 minutes to a workshop in Rochester. I got there just fine, thanks to my GPS. I enjoyed the workshop. When it was over, I hopped into the car, plugged in the GPS, and … . Nothing. Since I had no idea where I was, at least in comparison to where I needed to go, this was a problem.

I could share more of my driving escapades, but since this is a post on faith, I’d best hurry and make an application. Working with young people, one frequent question heard is, “How can I know God’s will?” Teens often want to know what vocation they should follow or who they should marry. Even some of us not-so-young people often struggle with making right decisions. In short, we want direction.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there is no Google map to give us directions from the cradle to the grave. God doesn’t overwhelm us with all the twists and turns in our life journeys, but He does promise, like my GPS, to guide our next step.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Like a flashlight which only shines upon the area right in front of our feet, God’s Word illuminates only what we need to know to take the next step. Still, I often hear people talk as if God’s will is elusive and undecipherable. Hey, any parent knows that when you want your child to do something—stay out of the street, clean his room, or take out the garbage—you tell him directly, and sometimes repeatedly. God is a great communicator. If He wants us to go one way, and we are listening, willing and obedient, He will make that way plain.

God often required His people to literally follow a step at a time. Abraham was called to leave his home and go to a new promised land—without knowing where he was going. The children of Israel followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as they circumnavigated the desert on their way to their inheritance.

Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Deut 5:32

Sometimes the way is pleasant, and we walk in the sunshine and thank God for his clear direction. Sometimes the way is hard and rocky, twisting in a direction where we don't want to go. And we say, “Are you sure, Lord?” But in faith we believe God knows what He is doing.

Problems arise when we neglect His guidance. Like a GPS we never turn on, God cannot guide us when we are not regularly spending time in his Word. And if we argue and follow our own plans instead, (which, oddly enough, is how my husband uses a GPS) eventually we become attuned only to our own way and not to His.

(For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 2 Cor 5:7

Question: Has God ever made His will known in a surprising way? Or led you in a surprising direction?

Fun Question: Have you ever gotten lost? Any interesting stories to share?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught secondary English and science for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.


  1. Happy Anniversary, Barbara! I hope you and your hubby have a super time celebrating your twenty-five years of togetherness.

  2. Happy Anniversary!

    Barb, I'm the queen of getting lost. I am so directionally challenged that I get turned around coming out of stores. Luckily for me, I live north and west of most everywhere. I've had that drilled into my head, and the only time that knowledge fails me is when I'm north of home. Instead of going south to get home, I went north. I was almost to Canada before I realized it. Good thing I did realize it in time because I don't have a passport!

    I love the spiritual tie-in.

  3. Thanks, Keli! I don't quite know how 25 years passed so quickly, and me only 29--hmmm.

  4. Suzie--all I can say is that you and I would be really fun on a road trip together!

  5. Last year, hubby and I were trying to locate a restaurant in the VA area to meet family. The GPS got us in the general direction, but could be no more specific than to circle parkway (in the dark), all the while talking on the phone w/family for guidance. We could see numerous small businesses, but still the GPS could not get us close enough to figure it out. After about 30 minutes of circling and plenty of frustration, we finally located the restaurant.

    Enjoyed your post (as usual)!

  6. This was a good post for me today because I keep praying about direction for publicity with my book, and I'm not really getting much yet. Maybe it's just not the next step right now, and I should chill for the moment :)

  7. Oh, and on the fun question, I actually rarely get lost. My sister and I both seem to have our 1/16 Native American express itself in excellent tracking abilities. It was hard for both of our husbands to accept the fact that we're hardly ever wrong.

  8. Shelley? Is that you peering over those glasses.

    Yes, I've noticed sometimes the directions on the GPS are general, like when the business is located in a large mall or shopping center. We had the most horrible time locating a Chick Fil-A in Palm Beach. But we were determined!

  9. Dina--

    Just keep praying. I'm sure God has some great direction for you. (And some great tips you'll be able to share with the rest of us!)

    And I wonder if my husband has some Native American blood too, because I marvel at his ability to get around. And it doesn't just extend to the area in which we live. Since he travels frequently, he seems to know his way around quite a few major cities. I'm more than a tad jealous.

  10. This made me chuckle! The direction thing has to genetic. My husband and my daughter are perpetually turning the wrong direction. Drives me crazy...
    So hubby and I both have GPS on our phones, and now we argue over whose GPS is correct instead of over who gets to read the map. To my amazement, the man can still get us lost with GPS! *sigh*

    Great analogy, BTW. I like to think that the Holy Spirit is like an internal GPS for us, nudging us in the direction we're to go!

  11. Niki--
    Now you can tell your husband he's not the only one with that skill (getting lost with a GPS).

    And you're so right about the Holy Spirit nudging us along. Only it's easy to get so jostled around by the world and our own thoughts that we miss his direction completely. Talk about distracted driving!

  12. Happy Anniversary, Barb. Hope you enjoy your special day.

    About that GPS - at least you didn't follow it into a lake like some people that made the news.

    I've found that I have to keep our GPS in my purse because if I leave it out in the closed van during the summer, it'll bake and not work for days.

    I had a GPS story for you but it slipped my mind. I'll pop in later if I remember it. *sigh

    Great post, btw.

    Anita Mae.

  13. Thanks, Anita.

    I'll have to Google the story of the people who followed their GPS into a lake. I keep mine in my purse too.

    And the backup GPS. I know it's a little OCD to have a backup GPS, but after the time I was stranded when mine went dead, I bought a cheap one to keep in my purse for emergencies.

  14. I always get horribly, horribly lost too! I feel like my GPS makes things worse, if that's at all possible. I won't tell you about the many yelling matches I have with my GPS!

    I really liked your analogy about God guiding us. Sometimes I feel like it's hard to hear His voice or I think He's leading me down a strange path (much like my GPS!) but life is so much better and easier for me when I just put my trust in Him. If only I could remember that always!!

  15. Laura,

    The GPS can be difficult at times. There's nothing worse than back country driving, if it loses signal, or city driving when the streets are so close together or high buildings block the signal. My daughter claims her GPS took her in an infinite loop when she was trying to get to a new hospital where she was interning.

    But I agree, God's guidance is so much better!

  16. I had a nightmarish trip 5 hour ride when my GPS kept losing contact with the satellite system. I remember feeling suddenly very isolated. So much worse to feel isolated from spiritual directions. Thanks for a great post, Barb.

  17. My GPS, Jane, has taken me on some strange routes but she's relying on old information and I feel sorry for her when I am confidently through what looks like NOTHING (indeed my little blue truck icon seems to be off roading...) and she keeps struggling to figure out where we are. RECALCULATING. RECALCULATING...

    I know they aren't always right but it's so much better than trying to read a map while driving.

    Sometimes I know better than my GPS, but I have to remember that I DON'T know better than God.

  18. Fun post, Barb. I rarely use my GPS, but when I need it, I NEED it. I took the kids out of town a few years ago and planned to meet my aunt at a restaurant, and about 5 miles away from our destination, my GPS took ill or something and blacked out (it's since recovered). I panicked. I had no clue where I was. I had to pull over and pray and figure out where I was. And we made it--yahoo! Silly story. But it's sad how heavily I rely on that thing sometimes.

    Oh! I almost forgot! Happy Anniversary!

  19. Lisa--
    How true! Yet how easy it is to try to go it alone. I love that the connection never fails on God's part, as long as we're listening!

  20. Deb, I know the signal is a tad iffy in your neck of the woods, and in parts of PA.

    I just remembered I needed you to guide me in when my GPS took me down the wrong road to your place.

  21. Susanne--

    Thanks. And it sounds like you need a backup GPS too!


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