Throw Out Your Map

man_mapDespite all my efforts, I am not the master of the universe. And, in fact, although I can certainly influence the direction of my life, I’m not even master over my own destiny.

That’s kinda tough news for a guy. I was at a men’s bible study last night, and of the nine of us there, most of us had come to this sad conclusion also. Well, perhaps not so sad. For most of us there, it was actually a liberating revelation. (Although I admit, I’m still working to reach that state of contentment.) For the most part, we all tended to be controllers, decision-makers, problem-solvers, fixers. We wanted to impose our order on the situations around us, and make things “right” (at least “right” as we saw it). And maybe that’s a basic human characteristic, not just a guy-thing.

Speaking solely for myself here, I can tell you that trying to be master of your own destiny is exhausting work. And it’s frustrating when reality refuses to conform to your wishes. Most of us at the meeting had come to the conclusion that, contrary to what we tended to think, our way was not always the best way — and certainly not the only way — of doing things. And we don’t have to be in charge all the time. The liberation occurs when we realize that God is actually the grand orchestrator of our lives, and that the best place to be in life is in surrender and cooperation with his plans. If we could do that, we could (almost) sit back a bit and try to enjoy the ride.

This is not an attitude of complete passivity, of course. That’ll get you nowhere. We all have to put some muscle into it, to throw our efforts and energies toward the direction we feel God would lead us. But ultimately the final destination, the final results, are not up to us. Sometimes, if we spend enough time soul-searching and pressing God, we’ll get a glimmer of what our final destination looks like, but it is almost never reached by the way we anticipate or plan. Like that old saying, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, all we can do it take that next step that is right in front of us, pursue it whole-heartedly, and wait for the next step after that to reveal itself.

I remember one time, a long time ago when I was working for a theological journal in Israel, a woman wrote in asking us to pray that God would show her his will for her life. My first reactive thought was “yeah, you and me both, sister.” But then as I sat quietly for a moment staring at her letter, words in a quiet whisper broke clearly in my mind: “look where you’re at right now. That’s where it begins.”

We can become so lost trying to see through the fog of the future, trying to see the road all the way from where we are to the end the journey. But we’re never shown the entire path. And perhaps that’s an act of mercy on God’s part. If we knew in advance everything we would encounter, we might get overwhelmed, lose heart, and never even want to venture out. And perhaps it’s because that is the nature of our quest: we’re supposed to live in the present, in the here and now, and trust God as we go. Will we trust God — will we have the guts — to take that next step, not knowing exactly what we’re stepping into or what might happen there or where it will lead us to next?

It is a futile effort to try to map out the trip from beginning to end. (And where would the fun be in that?) Our single responsibility is take that next step, whatever it is revealed to be. Our only concern should be to say “yes” and then to dedicate ourselves to that task at hand — not trying to figure it all out. The path will be stretched out before us, but we can only take it — and only see it — one step at a time.

Guys hate asking for directions. We like to know the way and every leg of it. But if we want to finally end up where we’re supposed to be, if we want to have a successful and exciting journey, we have to begin by first throwing out our maps.