Jill and I were lost in the woods.
And our GPS was no help.
It was a crisp fall morning, and we had set out early to hike the trail around the conference headquarters. The woods, decorated in the rich colors of autumn had beckoned to us from the window the day before, but workshop after workshop kept us indoors.
“Let’s get up early tomorrow,” I proposed, “and take a hike before the first session.” My friend Jill was all for it. She’s a Texas girl who loves wide open spaces and the joy of physical exertion.
The thick woods of the mountain didn’t exactly qualify as a wide open space, but the mild temperatures and the heavenly scent of newly fallen leaves was incentive enough for her. After reminding ourselves of the general trail layout, we chose a path that would bring us back to the conference center in 30 minutes or so—plenty of time to freshen up before the first session.
At least that’s what we planned. And the plan worked well until 30 minutes had come and gone with no sign of the conference center. After we had hiked an hour through thick woods with no clearing in sight, we pulled out our technology. Both of us had smart phones, but technology only goes so far in the hands of not-so-smart operators.
I swiped open my Google maps and sure enough, there we were. We weren’t lost after all. Google knew right where we were. We were a steadily blinking dot in the middle of . . . well . . . a forest.
I don’t know what I expected, maybe a little red arrow saying Conference Center this way, or, The Right Trail is 1,000 Yards to Your Left, but no, just that steadily blinking dot telling us You Are Here.
But You Are Here doesn’t help much when you really don’t want to be HERE anymore. To make matters worse, we couldn’t remember the name of the conference center, so we didn’t even have a value to put into the destination slot of the app.
I’m sure there are a hundred readers who can tell me how we could have used my program to navigate ourselves out of those woods, but spare me. I’ve made mental notes to prevent a repeat performance.
Instead we tucked our phones back in our pockets, took a good look around us, and headed in the opposite direction of the sun. We remembered noticing how the sun had shined through the windows of the conference center the day before, so we knew that heading away from the sun would eventually bring us to our starting place.
An hour and two and a half miles later, we saw the outline of the buildings in the distance.
A surveyor friend commented recently how GPS makes his job so much easier than it used to be. Once he finds his reference point and hammers one of those familiar orange-ribboned stakes into the ground, he says, he can use his GPS signal to walk off the perimeter. “But I have to have a reference point,” he says.
My lost-in-the-woods experience and my surveyor friend’s observations confirm what I’ve learned during 32 years of living. If we don’t know where we are and where we’re going, we stay lost. We spend our lives wandering, expending great amounts of time, energy, and resources, and never really “arrive.”
I was 18 years old when I first realized where I was. I had the world by the tail, yet I was wandering, purposeless, and empty. I had everything I thought should make me happy—I’d graduated fourth in my high school class, had a steady boyfriend, had a full tuition scholarship to the college of my choice, but there was an ache, an empty place I could no longer ignore.
Scientist Blaise Paschal described it this way: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
St. Augustine said something similar: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."
The most important step for me was realizing where I was.
Then I had to figure out where I wanted to go. For me, I’d lived enough of MY life MY way to know that being the “master of my destiny” wasn’t working very well.
So I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.
I couldn’t imagine how praying a simple prayer could really change anything, but I was desperate enough to try it.
That was 32 years ago. That simple prayer gave me direction, peace, and purpose. Best of all, it helped me know not only where I was, but where, one day, I wanted to be. These are the two things we all need to know if we don’t want to spend our lives wandering.
And that is the moral of my story.
So where are you? And where do you want to go? Figuring out the answers to these two questions could change your life forever.
If you'd like to know more about the simple prayer that changed my life, CLICK HERE. If you've prayed this simple prayer, I'd love to hear how it changed your life. Leave a comment below and share your story.
I'm linking up with Arabah Joy today.
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