|Photo by Ximonic, Simo Räsänen, 2010|
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Back in the day when GPS, or global positioning system, became popular, I had mixed feelings about this new technology that could map your position anywhere on earth using coordinates. On the one hand, it was reassuring to know that my car could be located in the event that I got stranded in an accident in a remote place. Yet it evoked suspicion of Big Brother watching me wherever I went, compromising my privacy even though I had nothing to hide.
Those were the days when motoring associations still issued trip planners, or booklets with a separate page for each leg of a proposed road trip, giving directions, a map, mileage and fuel costs, and even sightseeing attractions, restaurants, and lodging along the route. Yet to be fully effective, using these required a navigator who would read the (often unclear) directions to the driver, both of whom were too preoccupied with getting from point A to point B to be able to relax and enjoy the journey.
As computer technology took quantum leaps forward, the directionally challenged such as myself could depend on Alexa, a virtual assistant, whose consistently calm and steady voice would give us directions, allowing us to keep both hands on the wheel and to focus on the traffic and sights we might encounter.
I remember an episode of the sitcom “The Office” in which the disorganized boss and his obsessive-compulsive employee were taking a road trip. Free-spirited Michael wanted to wing it rather than follow directions, which was the pattern of his life, while Dwight insisted on rigidly obeying every GPS command, even as it led his new car straight into a swamp.
“Back up 3 feet and proceed to the route,” intoned the pleasant, ever calm voice, while Michael waved his arms in desperation.
Now that GPS-directed travel has become routine, my husband and I still disagree about its optimal use. When we are meeting our son for dinner downtown, my husband wants to take the usual highway route because it’s familiar and he knows the way. But I prefer him to use GPS, because it sees the whole traffic, construction, and accident situation and can route us around any obstacles or delays.
Most of the time I win, but as soon as Alexa has us looping through back streets in what appear to be pointless circles, my husband gets aggravated and wants to go his own preferred way.
“Well, there’s no sense in using Alexa if you’re not going to trust what she says,” I protest. Usually he gives in to the two female voices in the car – mine chiding and a bit impatient, while Alexa maintains her unruffled calm. At least until we pull over for gas or a pit stop, at which point she keeps repeating “Proceed to the route.” Even the most unimpassioned voice can seem annoyingly insistent when the message does not change!
But Alexa prevails in the end, and we arrive at the restaurant safely, having made the best possible time thanks to a minimum of traffic delays.
It reminded me that God is our unfailing GPS, our navigational system throughout life, keeping us on the best path even if that involves unexpected twists and turns. Once we are born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), His Holy Spirit enters our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22; 3:3; Galatians 4:6). His still, small, voice is always there, if we choose to listen (1 Kings 19:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).
How reassuring, and yet sometimes how terrifying, to know that we can never escape God’s watchful eye. Wherever we go, anywhere on earth or even into outer space, we cannot escape His faithful presence. Even more profoundly than the GPS, He tracks our every move, whether we are in the center of His perfect will, seated in heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6), or backslidden into the miry pit of this world (Psalm 139:1-10).
This is a tremendous source of comfort when we are following His plan for our life. It should also be a fearsome motivator to return to Him when we know we are in disobedience, for He will chastise or even scourge His children when needed (Hebrews 12:6-11). God has eyes and ears everywhere in the universe He created and sustains (John 1:1-3), so nothing escapes His attention.
If Alexa directs our car into a swamp, she may be relying on outdated or inaccurate information, but God’s wisdom and knowledge are perfect, comprehensive, and complete (Proverbs 2:6; Romans 11:33; Colossians 2:3). If we listen to Him, He will keep us out of trouble and on His best path (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Despite her pleasant, almost sultry voice, Alexa is a computer program devoid of will or emotion, and she has no interest in our ultimate destination. Yet our God is a jealous God Who desires and deserves our full attention and loyalty (Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 5:9), but Who loves us infinitely (1 John 4:8-9; 3:1, Romans 5:8, 8:39) and wants to bless us with His very best gifts (1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 2:4; 3:19, 5:2; James 1:17). When we yield control of our journey to Him, He gives us the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), as well as the blessings of beautiful sights and sounds along the way.
The choice is ours – we can ignore God’s voice at our own peril, relying on our own flesh to get us to where we think we want to go, or we can follow Him, willingly placing our destiny in His loving, all-powerful hand where we are safe from all dangers (John 10:28-29).
The bumper stickers that say “Jesus Is My Copilot” have it all wrong. Don’t you want God to be in the driver’s seat?
© 2020 Laurie Collett