GPS – “The God Positioning System”
God’s system of directing us doesn’t work very much like Google Maps or the GPS device in your car or smart phone. (My friend calls hers “Garmin” after the brand name on the front, so we’ll use that from now on as we talk about the satellite-operated system. And since hers has a woman’s voice, we’ll refer to Garmin as a she. OK?)
You tell Garmin where you want to go and she tells you how to get there in the most direct way possible. But with the God Positioning System – as long as you haven’t lost your “whatever” – rather than try to program him to get you where you want to go and how you want to get there; I advise you to begin with the premise that you’re not the one in charge. You’re the led and he’s the Leader. You can tell Garmin where you want to go, but for “Whatever Christians” God reserves the right to demand his own preferred destinations for each of us. He’s not the least bit programmable, and doesn’t operate like a satellite-driven device. With him in charge, you’ll do best to start your trip with a couple of questions: “Where do you want me today, Lord? What can I do which could bring you some glory? Whatever you want, Lord – I’m in!”
I think of his guidance in terms of a Place, a Path, and a Pace. He chooses the place (the destination), the path (our route to the destination, which is usually more circuitous than we’d like), and the pace of the journey (the rate at which we should travel on the path toward the place).
As far as the place is concerned, I’m not necessarily referring to a geographical location (although he does sometimes lead us to specific locales). I’m speaking more of a goal or purpose of some sort that he wants us to aim at. Maybe it’s a quality of character that he wants us to work on, a career path to begin, a place of service to pursue, or a task to set out to accomplish. It could be something small like making a decision between classes to take in college or something big like choosing a marriage partner. Either way, the God Positioning System often prompts us to head a certain direction, and if we’re true “Whatever Followers” of Jesus – we go!
He seems to care as much about the path and the pace as he does the place he wants us to go – if not more. What he’s doing in and around us while on the way to the place are important to him. I’ve seen over and over that when I “arrive” at the place to which he led me that it’s not as memorable as the trip itself. He’s just as interested in the race as he is in the finish line. We’ve all heard the sayings about enjoying the journey… Stop and smell the flowers and so on…
Though Garmin will get you there in the least amount of time, God sometimes takes the long way. He has his reasons (which our reason can’t usually fathom), but if he was in a hurry, he probably wouldn’t have told us over and over to “wait” for him.
Garmin tells us how long our journey will be and the best route to take for the trip. But God’s system doesn’t usually provide an ETA or any sort of exact route that would get us there with the least amount of effort and in the least amount time. He doesn’t seem to be as interested to lay it all out for us as we are in having it so.
There are times when I’ve anticipated a route and ETA, but found the journey much more circuitous than I’d envisioned. The path he led me to travel actually turned out to be much less direct and more arduous than I had imagined.
Speaking of “circuitous,” in the 23rd Psalm where David wrote, “he leads me in paths of righteousness” it’s sometimes translated “circles of righteousness.” In a trip to Israel I noticed that one could see circular paths winding up to the tops of many of the hills and mountains. Our guide told us that these are the paths that shepherds have for centuries led their sheep up the steep prominences of the land. Then we began to discuss how our Good Shepherd similarly avoids wearying us by driving us directly up to the top, but oftentimes more gently leads us on a more manageable, circuitous – which seems circular – route to our (his) destination. I guess he’d rather not rush us to the terminus, but takes his time to entice us to his purposes. I’ll try to remember this next time I feel like I’m going in “circles”!
A lot of times his way seems to be more of a moment-by-moment sort of thing. My first car was a VW bug that had a 6-volt battery. In order to get the headlights to glow at full strength the engine had to be running at full R.P.M.s! I had to rev the engine in order to get the beam to reach more than about 10 feet in front of the car (even on high beams) and the horn to blow at more than a muffled squeak! God has most often led me in this way – sort of inch-by-inch! His non-Garmin approach makes me slow down in order to enjoy the scenery and avoid collisions.
With Garmin I plug in my intended destination, but with the God Positioning System my part is to just plug in the “Whatever,” try to live responsibly, and see how the day (week, month, year, decade) unfolds. Other times he prescribes the ultimate destination and then sort of leaves the route to me. He gives me clues about what sort of choices that I might make that’ll make the trip the most achievable and enjoyable, but he trusts me to live responsibly and make wise (biblically informed) choices along the way.
What happens then if after I’ve done all I know to do to pray and obey; and still the journey is strenuous and the destination unpleasant? Though my default reflex is to second-guess the accuracy of my original perception of his guidance (maybe I read the screen wrong). Sometimes I even question his wisdom or good intentions for me (maybe he’s wrong or doesn’t care about me after all…). At the end of the day I have to remember that he never guaranteed that I would like where or how he leads me. He didn’t promise “easy.” In fact, he warned us that it wouldn’t be, but urged us to go nevertheless – and endure. “Whatever, Lord!”