Maps vs. GPS

            “True navigation begins in the human heart.  It’s the most important map of all.”—Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

            “It finally happened.  I got the GPS lady so confused, she said, ‘In one-quarter mile, make a legal stop and ask directions.’”—Robert Brault

            “Uh, oh,” I heard my husband, John say.  It’s the tone in his voice that jolted my attention out of the book in which I was reading.

            “I think I missed a turn,” his voice was filled with dread.

            I recalled looking up at a sign as John made a turn, thinking, “Hmm . . .this doesn’t feel right.”  However, I did not speak up because I figured I was wrong—just a crazy notion because we were traveling a new route.

            Then, John pointed out that all of the road signs were in now French.  Oh boy, something was certainly wrong, and I felt horribly because I had been reading rather than looking at a map of New Brunswick in order to help John navigate.

            We were traveling home from a two-week stay in New Brunswick, Canada—the only officially bi-lingual Province.  While driving in New Brunswick, all road signs were labeled both in English and French.  The fact that road signs were now solely French could mean only one thing; we had inadvertently crossed into Quebec!

We were traveling through the Appalachian Mountain area near Quebec for the return route home. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn and ended up in nearby Quebec!

            While we had been using our car’s navigation system, it gets a bit wonky when traveling through remote areas or out of the country, and we were doing both. Therefore, we could only see the image of the road over which were traveling.  Typically, we rely on a map app on our phone when traveling.  Unfortunately, our phone company, which allows us to call Canada without any extra cost, triples and quadruples the cost of our phone use if we are in Canada trying to call/text to the U.S. or access cellular data. Thus, we turn our phones to airplane-mode when in Canada, rendering our phones unable to access apps without wifi—which our car does not have.

            Ultimately, we were able to find a safe place to turn around, stop, and look at our map.  It was at that singular moment, I knew that Divine Providence was providing me with a lesson.

Oops! We had inadvertently crossed into Quebec!

            GPS navigation systems are great, but the image we see, especially when driving, is often quite small and out of context of the bigger map picture.  Further, GPS will usually get you there; however, it doesn’t replace experience, which often informs us of faster routes, less congested roads, and so forth.  Finally, a GPS system often emphasizes details rather than the big relational pictures such as borders.  Thus, the big take away is that we receive three benefits when a GPS in conjunction with a map.

When driving out of the U.S., or in a remote area, our GPS can become a bit wonky!

            Isolation vs. Context.  When viewing our car’s navigation screen, we can only see the isolated route in which our car is traveling.  The overall context of the route, the roads from which we came, as well as the roads in which we will travel, are not visible.  However, looking over a map reveals the context of the entire route.

            This often happens in life.  For example, news blurbs, co-workers, or even loved ones, may focus upon, or share, one phrase or one point a person states in isolation, rather than reveal the entire context in which the words were spoken or written.  Likewise, well-meaning Christians sometimes use one Bible verse to support a certain belief or rule, rather than viewing that Bible verse within the context of the chapter, book, intended audience, or even time period in which it was written.

            Of course, there are many beautiful, singular phrases, quotes, and Bible verses from which there is much to be gained—I often use these to support and inspire my own writing, thinking, and speaking.  However, it worth remembering and taking time to view, or listen, to the full context in which both written and spoken words are derive, just as it would have benefitted John if I had been looking at the full map while he used the navigation screen.


            Inexperience vs. Experience.  When using a GPS or a map, you are choosing to rely another’s judgment or knowledge regarding which route, turn, or direction to travel.  This is especially true if when traveling to a new location.  It is often interesting to note that once the lay-of-the land in a new area is learned, we begin to realize better or faster roads/turns in which to take in order to arrive at a given destination.  This can only happen, however, with driving experience.

            Likewise, in life, when starting a new job, task, class, and so forth, we often choose to rely on the knowledge of others to inform our decision-making.  This mentoring is, of course, useful and quite valid; however, it is important to allow experiences, combined with the knowledge of others, to teach and affect the way in which we ultimately perform, make choices, and live our lives.   Further, it is often even more important to consider the internal, Divine voice offering valuable guidance.  Just as I should have listened to the inner voice that told me we were probably making a wrong turn, so too, should we listen to God’s guidance.


            Big Picture vs. Details.  Finally, the GPS navigation system does not reveal the broad picture of the full traveling route—only that route in which you need to be traveling at that moment.  Whereas, a map usually has the ability to reveal the entire route including borders, times zones, bodies of water, and so forth.  A map, however, does not possess the smaller details of exit numbers, upon what side of the road those exits will occur, etc. Certainly, though, if I had had that map open when we were traveling, in addition to the GPS image of the route number, I could have looked at the big picture.  I might have observed that even though we were indeed on the correct route, the signs for upcoming towns were the opposite direction of where we needed to drive.

            Similarly, in order to navigate life, sometimes we have to have a clear image of the grand scheme of our life’s direction.  Of course, it can be argued the importance of “one step at a time, one day at a time”– our life needs an ultimate direction/purpose/goal in which to direct those smaller, day-by-day turns.

The lesson of the GPS vs. paper map is this:  In order to navigate life, we need to not view all events in isolation, but within context of our life. (In the grand scheme of a two long days of driving, adding one extra hour due to our mistake was not that big of a deal.) Secondly, while a new adventure is always exciting, there is nothing like life-experience to inform our future choices.  (If we ever travel that same route, do you think we will make that same wrong turn again?)   Lastly, there is great benefit in taking life one day at a time; however, it is important to keep the big picture, the goal of our life, in mind. (Once we realized we were headed in the wrong direction, we turned around, and got back on our target route.)    The Divine Director will guide our life journey, but we must choose rely on this ultimate guidance.

Ultimately, we must look to the Divine Director for guidance along our life journey.

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