Directions through the Maze

“Come now you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and get gain,’ whereas you do not know about tomorrow.” James 4:13-14

From the "God Can Use Dumb Things to Teach Eternal Lessons" file comes a story from my own dumb experience. Last Friday afternoon, I decided to run a six mile route from my home. The day was hot, mid-90's or so, but the heat has never bothered me too much. I decided to run through an adjoining subdivision called Shenandoah.

Now a word about Shenandoah. It's named after the Virginia valley that was the site of many Civil War battles. It is a huge subdivision with street names redolent of the old South and the conflict that many in my part of the country still refer to as The War of Northern Aggression. Consequently, I'm sure, the subdivision is laid out in such a manner as to confuse any future invading Yankee horde. The few long, straight streets connect multiple curved streets, many of which dead end, while the next block takes you through. Anyone in Baton Rouge will attest to the vast maze that is Shenandoah subdivision. You can see where I'm heading.

I had driven a route that took me three miles into the labyrinth, and effectively navigated my way back to the house. Then I began my run. I successfully made my way to the three mile endpoint and turned around. At some point, and I'm still not sure where, I took a wrong turn. I felt like I was at Hogwarts with all the shifting staircases. I tried navigating by the sun. No good. I was absolutely lost.

About an hour in, with heat stroke rapidly approaching, I decided I had to flag down some passing cars. I know what you're thinking. "Why didn't you use your phone?" Good suggestion, but I don't carry my phone, preferring instead to enjoy the isolation of me and the elements. The elements were winning. Two teenagers valiantly tried to guide me. I got lost again. A young man in a utility company truck stopped, sadly explained that he could not give me ride, but offered a map and some water. With that in hand I ran on, eventually finding my way home. That run took twice as long as intended.

It reminded me of several important things about life and discerning God's direction.

First, losing your way in life is inevitable. We can and should make our plans, but James warns us that though we make plans we really don't know what tomorrow holds. The warning is to never make plans without trusting God for direction, and more importantly to keep trusting God when plans go in a different direction. I didn't plan on getting lost, and in fact planned carefully my path. I still got lost. We all spend some days, months, perhaps years with at least some uncertainty.

Second, God has never lost any of us. He knows right where you are even though you're not sure which direction to turn. You simply cannot march off the map of God's providence. He can work your way back to the right path. Don't lose hope, and don't think God is not watching you.

Third, God always sends someone to help guide us. Those teenagers and that young man helped me navigate the maze. I might still out there, sleeping on lawns, drinking out of hoses, if they had not come along. In life, God almost speaks to me through other people. If I am uncertain about my direction, I need to ask, and more importantly I need to listen.

Life is a maze. Just as I can wander around in a bewildering subdivision until all the streets and houses look pretty much the same, life sometimes becomes very bewildering. God has a different perspective. He sees all the turns and He knows how to get us home.


Dr. Terry Ellis

August 24, 2014