Maps

9/25/2013

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Growing up, every summer that I can remember, my mom, my sister, my brother and myself would pack and pile into our pink and white conversion van to drive from Philadelphia to West Texas.  Unfolded in the front seat were always the AAA maps that would get us across seven states and 1,819 miles.  As I got older, my mom took the time to show my sister and I how to take on the role as navigator and read the maps.  She showed us how odd numbered interstates run north-south and even numbered ones run east-west; she told us what rush hour was, and a beltway and why you needed one to avoid the other; how the little numbers above roads show you the miles between towns, and if you know that it takes about a minute to drive one mile on the highway, you can estimate the time and distance and pick the town in which you want to spend the night.   

Ever since those years of navigating cross-country, I have loved maps.  I love the feel of them between my fingers, the boxes showing close-ups of certain cities, the distance charts on the back, even the intentional and puzzle-like way they fold up.  But these days I hardly look at a map, except when it’s on my smartphone speaking out loud to direct me to my destination.  And I admit, it is better than the old days when I would spend hours going out of my way to get somewhere, having passed my turn, missed my exit, or driven in the wrong direction.  How many hours of my life have I spent lost, I am not sure. 

So when do you feel lost in these times?  There are all kinds of things that we encounter every day that disorient us, confuse us, and make us feel like maybe we don’t know the way. 

Here in Florida, I am at a conference where I attended one workshop on orienting ourselves as the church in the changing times.  This conference is a strange mix of new creative ministry leaders and pastors of aging congregations trying to figure out how to navigate the waters ahead.  As we discussed this same question of “what makes you feel lost in these times?” there were several at my table who talked about how the technology, the cultural relativism or pluralism made them feel lost, but many at the table acknowledged that they usually feel right at home in the post-modern culture – and it is the traditional church world that can make them feel lost. 

So what do we do when we feel lost?  Sometimes we start with denial, insisting that we are not lost at all; we are just going to keep heading in the same direction we’ve been going.  Or maybe we look around for a map, but some of those may be outdated.  Then perhaps we hit the fear and panic stage where we realize that we are lost and we get that tight feeling in our stomach, anxiety creeps up and we are afraid of all sorts of things. 

The more we talked about this in the workshop, the more I thought about how we are all part of this changing world and no matter how comfortable we may feel, it is less of driving on well-paved highways and more of being pioneers once again, making our way across unknown terrain.  Everything is new and there are fewer and fewer familiar landmarks around us.  

So I wonder, what tools do we use to find our way?  What are your maps, your equipment and tools for the roads ahead?  What helps you to get your bearings?  For me it has been a few books that still speak new wisdom to me every time I go back to them.  Prayer, or time reflecting on life and the paths I’m facing and what I hear God saying to me about it.  Or friends who really know me.  Somehow they always know how to make me feel less lost.

And so we head into new territories, new landscapes of life, new experiences and cultural changes.  In the past one hundred years, things have changed so dramatically it is truly strange to think about.  From technology to the way we organize family and community, from education to workplace, from local to global, we are pioneers covering new ground.  But, we don’t have to feel lost or disoriented, or if we do we can work towards a new way of looking at things.  During the workshop, the presenter shared this quote about getting lost, and I hope we can all find a way of living into it. 

 Laurence Gonzales, author of Extreme Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, states, “Like it or not, you must make a new mental map of where you are or you will die. To survive, you must find yourself. Then it won’t matter where you are. Not being lost is not a matter of getting back to where you started from; it is a decision not to be lost wherever you happen to find yourself. It’s simply saying, ‘I’m not lost, I’m right here’”

Abbie Huff


 





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