I met up with a colleague recently at a conference that was three hours from where we both lived and worked. Because the rural conference center was close to nowhere and not easily accessible , I asked what route he had taken.
“I don’t know,” he said with a note of self-suprise. “I just put the address into my GPS. I turned here, I turned there, I went through this town and that town, and then, VIOLA! I arrived.”
It reminded me how God often works in our lives — directing us to turn on unfamiliar paths, to travel through foreign places and trek along confusing terrain to get to the place where God wants us to go. But it also reminded me of how faithful people respond to God’s guidance.
How tempting it must have been for my friend to have become frustrated with his meandering route, to then pull out the maps, ask for directions and just find the most direct way to get to the conference. Instead, with plenty of time to make the trip and not worried that he would become irrevocably lost, he just went with the flow.
Talking about their journey of faithful discipleship, many people describe how God had led them along strange roads to places they never expected to go. But like my friend who trusted his GPS unit and did not override its guidance, these faithful disciples simply trust that God would lead them to the places God wanted them to be, regardless of the road they were taking.
In his wonderful book “Thoughts on Solitude,” Thomas Merton describes his encounter with God’s Positioning System.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
(Photo by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, used by creative Commons License. Thanks!)