Earlier this year, Janet and I traveled to Florida to attend a destination wedding at DisneyWorld. Although we flew to Orlando, we decided to use paper maps to get the lay of the land and locate different places of interest as we made our way down to Ft. Lauderdale – where we were scheduled to stay during my birthday several days later. Tonight, as I was working in my office, Janet dropped by and asked what I wanted to do with the map that she had found among some papers. I almost threw it out – I said ALMOST… I just couldn’t do it. I placed it on my desk and opened it up. What great memories of the places we went and the route that we took.
I was immediately transported back in time to when I was a boy and Dad taught me how to read a paper map. I loved the mileage designations between stops or places of interest along the route. If we were fortunate, we could order a Trip-Tik from AAA. Those were terrific. For those of you who may not be familiar with Trip-Tiks, they were spiral bound packets, put together by hand, that identified the route that was suggested for you to travel. Each section of the itinerary had its own page. Places of interest, hotels where you were scheduled to stay and construction detours were all a part of the package and they were a great addition to the paper maps that we also picked up at AAA. By the way, Janet and I still belong to AAA. In fact, we would rather travel by auto that fly – and that’s what we do whenever time allows.
Nowadays, all that is long gone. I recently had a discussion with one of our nephews who made reference to how easy it was to travel with the phone apps such as Google Maps or the Apple map app. He finished up by wondering how in the world anyone would ever opt to use a paper map when they were so old school – in fact, he was a little harsh. But you know what?
I love paper maps – and many others of my generation do as well. Remember spreading them out on the dining room table and having the family gathered around to figure out the route and places that everyone wanted to see? Those were priceless times… But now, you key in a destination on your phone, hit the button and, voila, the fastest route available is displayed. You only have to push “Go” and everything else is automatic. No week of anticipation until AAA could get all your maps and tour books together. You can’t write notes on the paper margins of the map; or circle places that you really enjoyed. Unfortunately, modern map applications are another example of the instant gratification that our society demands.
I guess that I like the idea of planning a route based on the entire picture and not necessarily on what gets me to my destination the fastest. You never know what you will learn or what experiences you will have when you allow flexibility into your plans.
A good friend of mine, Dave, is somebody who lives life to the fullest and goes out of his way to enjoy the scenery and attractions that are near to places that he travels. I can’t imagine how much he would miss if he only used his phone to get from point A to point B. And since Dave drives a 1951 Studebaker, made here in Indiana, you can bet that reading a paper map is part of the entire aura of his experiences.
I can’t help but be reminded of the people of God during the Exodus from Egypt. They had something even better than a paper map – they had God going on before them. And if you are familiar with the story of the trek to the Promised Land, you know that a journey that should have taken about 11 days took 40 years. There were many detours, twists and turns but one thing didn’t change – God led them every step of the way. In fact, the Bible records at least 42 different stops the people made on their way to their new home.
Our verse for tonight highlights the fact that God led His people on their journey. God actually tabernacled with them – in other words, he lived among them during their time in the desert. When He stopped, they stopped… and when He moved, they moved, whether it was day or night. Moses, the author of Exodus, tells us in Exodus 13:21-22, “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
My encouragement this evening is that there is a divine plan for each of us and while we can anticipate our route, we must be able to understand that God may change our path to suit His purposes. Chances are that we will be rewarded when we follow Him. My prayer is that we will be receptive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and realize that while we already, as believers, know our ultimate destination, the route we take to get there isn’t necessarily the shortest distance between two points. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…