To say that I do not have strong map skills is a gross understatement. As a young adult, I struggled to identify north, south, east, and west. Ok, total moment of honesty. Right now, as I look around, I have absolutely no idea which direction is which. I own it. I embrace it. I’ve accepted it. It’s baffling to many who know me to see the depth at which I become discombobulated at the very mention of these directives. Once, in my early years of college, I went to visit my best friend who had relocated out of our quaint little town to the bustling metropolis. I wanted to go visit her, but I knew that meant taking down great directions and successfully implementing said directions. This was pre-GPS, folks. Gasp! I know, I know….the horror. In what had to be an act of angelic intervention, I made it to my BFF’s apartment. I tried to convince her of the magnitude of my accomplishment. And then, after our visit, it was time to go back to my home. “It’s just like how you came here,” she said. “It’s easier going back,” she said. “Just follow the signs,” she said.
Well, I’ll save you some details and just focus on the fact that as I turned out of her apartment complex and began my journey home, I turned in the wrong direction immediately out of the gate. I ended up almost two hours out of the way. She was stunned. She could not believe that I got so lost so quickly. It was a defining moment in our friendship. It was the moment where she knew that I was directionally challenged…far worse than she ever imagined. And so, from then on, she came to visit me. It was just easier that way.
I also like to laugh at the fact that in today’s age, I have a false sense of directional confidence because of my GPS navigation. I have it enabled on my phone as well as having a mounted GPS in my car. One can never have too much direction when one has such dire abilities. I type in a new address with the self-assurance that I will get where I need to go. Why? Because I just hit the Get Started button and a nice lady tells me to “turn right.” There are a few things in addition to Jesus and my family, of course, which I can’t live without: sweet tea, salted caramel anything, Chapstick, and my GPS.
So, now that you know my dark secret…my map skill insecurity…my direction disconnect, you can process a bit more of who I am a person. And, you can follow me across the bridge to where I am leading this conversation. The idea for this blog entry hit me in the face as my ideas often do after a string of events linked together made me focus on directions. This time, however, there was no map needed. There was no complicated list of route markers to follow. When I feel lost, whether it be emotionally, spiritually, or literally, I pray for God to guide me. This new year has brought me face to face with many defining situations that I needed to find my way out of or find my way to. And, in many cases, they were situations that required more navigating skills than I seemed to have.
I had tears in my eyes one night just calling out to God seeking His voice…His leading hand. I reminded Him of past events and reiterated my current situation (as though He didn’t know my story). Everything seemed so busy in my head.
I was overthinking my problems and underestimating the Lord.
And then, I forced myself to be still…to be quiet. I knew there must be a way to tackle some of the things that were hitting me head on that were causing me to crawl into my hole of insecurity and watch on replay the tapestry of chaos that I felt was being weaved. As I sat in my comfy mercantile chair (my personal thinking tree), I had an image pop in my head. It was of me looking at a map with an utterly confused look on my face. Yep. That seems about right. Giving me a map is like telling my four year old daughter to go make dinner. The effort will be there, but the result will be disastrous.
And so, I waited and tried to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. What do I need to get out of this idea of me with a map? And then I wrote down two words – – – Finding Forward.
Opening that map is not about locating the furthest southwest point. It is not about identifying the nearest national park. It has nothing to do with the interstates or the surrounding towns. Opening that map for me meant learning how to do one thing. Find Forward. I spend more time that I care to admit concentrating on things that happened in the past. I question redundantly why things happened the way they did.
I rewrite endings to stories that have already been told. That serves no purpose…no healthy purpose anyway. Not for me. I have to embrace the idea that the only direction I need to be able to recognize is forward.
I turned to my Bible.
There I found Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message). It reads, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
Don’t keep going over old history. I feel like I need a billboard outside my home that says that. I could look out my window when I am over-processing and uber-analyzing something that has happened and remind myself to move on. I already feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do all that I need and want to do, so why do I choose to waste minutes upon minutes reliving what is now historic?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
My old non-sense. That is the mess behind me. I am now on a new mission. I am to find forward. That is where I want to go. That is the simplest directive, yet one of the hardest to follow. But, with determination to step one foot in front of the other, I am going to move on. Disappointments happen. Frustrations are a part of daily life. People will be unkind. Fear is inevitably going to set in. Times of soaking in doubt will sneak in when I’m not looking. The point is that I don’t want to travel backwards when these life situations occur. I don’t want to dawdle. I want to know that I am with intentionality each and every day finding a way to accelerate…to chase what’s in front of me and be grateful for the opportunity to overcome.