Navigating Life

Six months after 9/11, I found myself volunteering at Ground Zero. I’d gone with a group from church and, for reasons that escape me, I signed up to work the 11 pm to 7 am shift in the enormous “tent” where the recovery workers came to eat and nap. There were five of us doing the all-night shift, throwing our whole hearts into duties like serving food, cleaning tables, gathering trash, making coffee, unpacking boxes of fruit and visiting with recovery workers. Normal work in a far-from-normal setting. To say that those eight hours in the tent, every night for a week, changed my life is an understatement.

Our daylight hours were far from normal as well. For the entire week, we never slept more than 3 consecutive hours. We were in New York, after all, and we didn’t want to miss out on seeing the city. So after getting back to the hotel and sleeping for a few hours, we’d head out to do some sightseeing. We even went to a Broadway play where we discovered that a darkened theater was a great place to nap. At the end of the day, we’d go back to the hotel, get a few hours of sleep, grab supper and head back to Ground Zero.

And never, EVER, did we take the same route twice.

You would think that after a day or two, we would have gotten the hang of the New York City subway but we didn’t. Every time we headed out, our group would huddle over the map—a huge piece of paper because this was before cell phones had Google Maps—discuss the best route to get from Point A to Point B, and off we’d go. And every night around 10:30, we’d huddle over the map again and try to figure out how to get back to Ground Zero. Police officers, random New Yorkers and one Port Authority executive took pity on us and gave helpful directions to our ragtag group throughout the week. But even with help, we’d get lost. One night we got so turned around that by the time we exited the subway we had to run, full speed, in order to arrive at the appointed gate by 11:00.

After finishing our shift on the last day of our trip, we bumbled our way to the nearest subway station and climbed on our train to head back to the hotel and pack for home. One of the women in our group studied the map, as someone was always doing, to determine where we should exit. Suddenly, she burst out laughing. “No wonder we’ve been getting lost all week,” she exclaimed. “This is a bus map!”

Yes, indeed, we’d been trying to navigate the subway system with a bus map.

That explained a lot.

People use numerous maps to help navigate life—maps that shape our thoughts and influence our decisions. Some good, some bad. Scriptures, devotional books, social media, news outlets, talk show personalities, authors, music, friends. People use a variety of maps to navigate life. I hate to imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have an assortment of navigational tools.

Which maps do you use? When I find myself trying to make a major decision, I look for God to guide me through His Word. But I’m smart enough to recognize that my emotions and desires may cloud my interpretation of Scriptures. So, I also seek the advice of wise, godly friends who love me enough to point out when I may be misinterpreting or misapplying the Word.

What about you? What are you using to navigate life?

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