God's navigation

I'd never had a navigation system before, but I wasn't all that excited. I didn't trust it, for one. And it is difficult to program. So when I left for Chicago, I didn't use it, just asked my daughter to read me the step-by-step directions printed out from Mapquest. It worked just fine, even though we had a few tense moments as I yelled at her to clarify, quick, whether I needed exit 259A or B. But on the way home, I thought I'd try it and see how it worked.

And I loved it. The warnings ("prepare to bear left in a quarter mile"). The clarifications ("turn left on the second road"). And the patient, patient voice, the anonymous woman who calmly directed me through traffic. I loved that the navigation system was integrated with the car, so not only was there an ever-changing map in the center of the console, but there was a handy little screen in the center of my dash that told me the next step. The arrow points straight or angles right or left. A little progress bar shows how much of this segment of road I've traveled. And type at the bottom of the screen tells me the name of the road I am on, as well as which direction I'm headed. The main screen even calculates for me miles traveled, miles to go, and arrival time at my destination, with a little speed limit sign in the corner (how did they know I'd always be going too fast?).

But, one time, I didn't want to go the way she told me to go, so I decided to take a different, closer exit. I was curious to see what would happen. If it had been me inside that system, responding to a last-minute, unexpected change, there would have been panic. I don't do well under pressure. I say words that I would say in no other circumstances. I freeze. If there are two options, I choose wrong. Always wrong.

But she remained calm, unflustered. Within seconds, a new route had been calculated, the directions corrected. She didn't snap at me. She didn't barely conceal her annoyance. She didn't even pout to express her resentment. She just adjusted, based on my actions, and found another way to get me there.

I've heard a million analogies about God being our compass. I know he directs us, points us in the right direction, and gave us his word as a guidebook. But my navigation system reminded me of another truth: he adapts. He gives us free will to make decisions, and if we choose a different path than the one he initially put before us, it's OK. He then prepares another. And when we stray, if we refuse to "please attempt a legal u-turn in the next 1,000 feet," he doesn't condemn. He doesn't mutter, he doesn't resent, he doesn't demand we change direction. He patiently adapts, trying to lead us down the next best route. And the next, and the next. The roads we choose are our own. The speed we travel is up to us. And how directly we proceed to the next point is a decision we're allowed to make. But no matter how convoluted our path, he never, ever stops correcting us. He never, ever stops finding another way to get us where we need to go. We may not always choose the simplest route, but he will never abandon us. And as long as he's there to "recalculate," we'll certainly find our way.