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Navigating life

The Life Less Traveled

September 21, 2011
You know you're getting old when your young friends ridicule your low-tech lifestyle. I recently took a road trip to Nashville, Tenn., with three guys from my church. All of them are younger than me. All of them have iPhones. I, on the other hand, have an old-fashioned, non-Internet surfing, beat-up cell phone that I think was a prototype used by Bill Gates when he started Microsoft in his garage a couple of decades ago.

I don't have a GPS either. I don't like GPS's because I don't trust them. I once had a GPS route me through one of the worst neighborhoods in Atlanta simply because computers have no common sense. The shortest distance between two points is not through gangland crossfire.

So, when I go on a trip, I print out directions from MapQuest. True, I'm still relying on a computer, but at least I can compare it to a physical map and make sure it's not sending me somewhere crazy. So, I pulled out my trusty MapQuest directions just as we approached Nashville.

The youngest guy on our trip, who we'll call Jon (because that's his name), spotted my old-fashioned hard copy and jumped on it.

"You printed out MapQuest directions? What is this? 1998?"

He'd already made fun of me earlier for being the only guy he knows without unlimited texts.

"OK, iPhone," I said, "Do you have a better way to get there?"

He typed in the address of the conference we were attending and told me that, actually, we'd save ourselves a ton of time if we got off the interstate three miles earlier. Bowing to peer pressure, I relented and took the nearest exit.

It didn't take long before the houses along the roadside gave way to woods. I'm not just talking about a few trees or lawns with wooded lots, but primeval, old growth forest. I thought we'd wandered into a national park or maybe the island from the TV show "Lost."

"Are we getting close?" I asked.

Jon checked his iPhone.

"It's just right up the road," he said. "We're almost on it. Just around this corner. Any minute. Here we go. We're on top of the little pin on my map!"

The little pin on his map marked 10 feet of uncompleted, grass-covered road. It didn't take a GPS to tell me we were in the middle of nowhere. At this point, we were not only running late for the conference, but I also desperately had to use the rest room.

I started wondering how far I could hurl an iPhone out of a car window.

It turns out that had we stuck with the original directions, we would have exited the interstate right at our destination. You could actually see the church that was hosting the conference from the road.

Maybe MapQuest is so 1998, but in 1998 I always found my way to where I was going, and I wasn't about to let this young whipper-snapper forget it.

More than a victory for old geezers and the technologically-challenged, though, this adventure reminded me of how important it is to be sure of what you're putting your trust in. In this instance, I had placed my trust in something that worked, and Jon had placed his trust in something that failed.

We live in a world that says to trust in yourself. Follow your heart. Make your own way. Be strong, smart and successful. You even see it in the church. Read the right book, take the right class, try harder and life will go your way.

You can do it!

The fact is, a lot of times in life we just can't do it. The fact is, our own best efforts at making life work often fall miserably short. We make mistakes. We face tragedy. We get confused and lost. And even when we think we know what we're doing, we're often like my over-confident friend, about to realize that we've made a serious miscalculation.

I've made the same mistake myself, trusting in my own effort, my abilities, my relationships or my religion instead of trusting in the One who can lead me to the life I'm made to live.

I heard a guy say the other day that it doesn't matter if you have great faith, just that you have faith in a great God. When it comes to navigating life, forget the map. Embrace the Map-Maker instead. Not only will He get you to where you really want to go, but the journey itself will be a lot more fun.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more from Byerly, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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