My reputation for getting lost began when I was around 8 or 9 and is rooted in an event that probably was just a joke, just a funny anecdote that got told and retold until everyone including me, began to believe that I am hopeless at finding my way home. A family friend picked me up for an afternoon of shopping and then had no idea how to get us home. She was the driver, the one in charge, but because I couldn’t direct her, I was held responsible for this. A call was made to parents, a route was secured, my character was solidified. It mattered naught that I was a child, that I was in unfamiliar territory, that I hadn’t known from the beginning that I needed to know how to get home. I was trusting the one I was with. Forever mocked about that trust, about my lack of navigational skills, I have done my utmost to live up to this reputation and get turned around as much as possible without thought as to why. Until the wonder of a navigational system within my phone, I was trapped and dependent and worse, not even trusting myself.
What if upon returning home from that trip so long ago I was met by parents who taught me to orient myself, who showed me how to use a map, who believed in me and realized the importance of all children, not just the male ones, in feeling their place in the world? Step-by-step instructions until I was able to do without, here is how we go into the world. When I traveled to South Korea to see my daughter, she wrote out detailed instructions and I made it, alone. When I had no one whispering jokes and making silly comments to shake my confidence I was able to do great things. Still, back home, I fell back into my reputation and relied on Siri or Mapquest to guide me everywhere, parking in the same aisle at every store, taking the exact route overtime, no adventures lest I get lost. Embedded within me though is a burgeoning love of travel, an adventurous spirit that takes over and says yes to any offer of a trip before the worry of how I will get there and home can take over. I think that spirit might be more holy than I knew.
Recently traveling alone to New Jersey required getting to the airport alone, parking, remembering where I left the car, finding the right gate. Once I landed I had to actually locate the campus and the dorm where I was staying and then find food. Even achieving success at all of this, my anxiety didn’t lift. I immediately began fretting about how to get back, 5 days into the future. How would I make it to the airport? I was told over and over about the ease of the train system but I couldn’t trust myself enough to use it. IThose old voices reminded me about my ability to get lost, to get turned round and make the wrong choice, to go left instead of right. I had trouble sleeping the first night, worry nagged at me. Eventually I met a wonderful new friend who offered a ride to the airport, she said she could use the aid of a navigator! A mixed blessing, to know I would be delivered back to the plane that would then take me home, but also to be asked to help, to be a participant in that delivery, oh dear! I wanted to tell her about me, all about how terrible I really am at this, to confess my sins so she could pick someone else to be friends with and drive with. Instead, I relied on that spark in me that wondered if maybe I could do it.
I discovered that I was quite able to follow the directions but also that she was more than equipped to get us back. She has taught orienting at camps for years! Riding shotgun with a master, who offered me safe haven in the front seat of her rental car, I found I was valued and my “stay in this lane, take the next exit” voice was trusted. Do we offer any less to our friends we worship with each week? To those who walk into our church for the first time? Aren’t we all trying to shake some things we “know” about ourselves to get down to what is true? I love that in Sunday school for preschools and the little ones, we give them the stories of faith so that one day when they really need to find their way home, they have the tools. Some of us didn’t spend all those mornings with sweet teachers who instilled us with images of ordinary people trusting God and doing extraordinary works. Like me, those folks keep coming in again and again until they are asked to do something that everyone knows they can’t, aren’t the best at, shouldn’t really be able to do, and God takes over and they soar and the angels sing.
I used to get lost, everywhere I went. I didn’t know how to find my way home. More than mile markers, street signs or guideposts, I have been blessed with friends who keep steering me to the Truth, to the One who gives grace for a wrong turn and offers that gentle guidance to reorient myself. Sometimes we have to go into a strange land, where no one knows us, to learn all about who we really are. The bible is full of stories of God pulling people out of their beliefs of themselves, into what is true about them. I used to get lost. I am on my way home now, I know I can find it.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path. Psalm 119:105