Saturday, June 26, 2010

Need Directions?

Looking back on it now, it's pretty sad that I actually felt this way at such a young age.

But I distinctly remember, somewhere around the age of 8 or 10, becoming seriously anxious that, when the time came for me to learn how to drive and get myself around town, I would become hopelessly lost and not be able to find my way to wherever I was needing to go.

In a way, it wasn't a totally unreasonable fear. Riding along with my parents every day as they navigated a seemingly never-ending labyrinth of L.A. freeways, exits, and twists and turns, it could easily overwhelm a kid to think about taking the helm on his own someday.

I can even remember bringing along some paper and a pencil one time, so I could copy down the route from our house to wherever our destination was. Not surprisingly, I was unable to keep up, gave up the effort after a few turns, and remained alone with my fear.

Never did I mention this nagging worry to my parents, so I forfeited the chance to nip this fear in the bud with their reassurance. It never crossed my mind that they, too, were once children riding along with their parents, not knowing one street from another or how to get anywhere.

But one random day, mercifully, the answer came, and my worries were relieved.

I had never noticed this before, but it all made sense the moment I did. I can't explain the relief and jubilation I felt when I finally saw it!

From my usual perch in the backseat, I could clearly see it: As we approached an intersection, just before my mom slowed down and turned the steering wheel, a little green arrow on the dashboard blinked on and off several times, and kept blinking until we had successfully made the turn!

There it was! Left this time, right next time, we're almost home!

The green arrow was even accompanied by a clicking sound, just to be sure you didn't miss it.

Oh, man! I had it figured out! Why had I been so worried for so long? It was all going to be OK!

The car would tell me which way to go, and when I needed to turn. Whew!

Well, I'm not sure which ending to this story is funnier: the bursting of my bubble when my parents later explained to me that the green arrow on the dashboard actually did not intuitively know your destination and blink on its own, or the fact that now, almost 30 years later, my cell phone does for me exactly what I thought my parents' dashboard did for them all those years ago. (In fact, many vehicles now actually do have this technology mounted into the dashboard!)

You've probably done it, too:

Just open up whatever app you use for maps and driving directions, tell the device where you want to go, and just turn when the voice says to turn. Amazing!

As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Roswell, NM. I have only been here once before, several years back, and have no personal familiarity with the city. But, thanks to my Droid, Google maps, and a robotic, female voice I've named "Betty", I have driven around town with the confidence of a local during this visit.

Kind of funny to sit here while my boys sleep and think that they will have no recollections of a world without Betty. Their experience with navigation will take place entirely after the infusion of GPS technology into the life of the average American. They may end up laughing years down the road at how primitive Betty was, and how excited I was just to have her in my life.

Will they ever purchase the annual Wal-Mart/Rand McNally Road Atlas?

Will it even be printed anymore?

Will the whole stereotype about men not being willing to ask for directions even be relevant in another generation?

It will be interesting to see how those questions pan out. But as long as Betty proves faithful in her guidance, I am sold on following her lead in unfamiliar territory, despite her difficulty with Spanish pronunciation. (It's "Chavez", Betty, not "Chaives"...)

I guess when it comes right down to it, everyone is looking for a guide to the unfamiliar.

Wouldn't it be nice to have GPS-quality instructions for the decisions and dilemmas that vex us throughout life? Compound those head-scratchers with the inevitable questions that will come from your children, and you will definitely be looking for some help.

(A shoulder-tap from reality: Our 5 year-old understands that he began his existence "in mommy's tummy", and just upped the ante tonight by asking how he got there in the first place...)

Betty can't help us there.

While my boys will someday enjoy technology even more impressive than what I am used to, there are some things, the most important things, that will require them to respect and rely upon navigation that remains changeless with time.

They must learn to excel in the ever-changing world around them, making use of its constantly evolving tools and systems, yet remain grounded in the Truth that never needs updating.

As much as Kristi and I relish the chance to be the source of answers for our boys now and for as long as they will come to us with their questions, we know the time will come when they will either have to, or will choose to, work things out on their own.

Here's the scariest part: When someone is desperate for direction, as I was when I pondered the challenge of learning to drive and navigate on my own, almost anything that provides even a glimmer of hope will be awfully appealing.

It's worth a laugh now to think back on my hopes foolishly invested in the green, blinking arrows on the dashboard. But what in this world, equally non-sensical, will seem to my children to be the source of just the answers they are looking for, if their hearts are not trained to look to the Father for guidance?

I shudder to imagine.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Changing of the Spade

My old shovel finally gave up the ghost last weekend.

I plunged the spade into the fresh soil of our garden, drove it in deep with my foot, pulled back on the handle, and heard a low-pitched crack. Sure enough, the handle had broken completely loose at the base, and my dig was stalled.

Honestly, this wasn't a complete surprise.

I acquired this shovel nearly a decade ago. At the time, my parents and I lived in the same town, but when they moved away, I took care of their yard for awhile, and some of their tools ended up migrating to my house. Ever since then, at the three different residences I've called home in that span of time, this shovel has stood in my backyard, leaning against the fence, standing guard against I'm not sure what, totally exposed to the elements season after season.

It is precisely this exposure that weakened the shovel to the point of cracking. It certainly wasn't weakened by extended use. Honestly, I didn't use it much at all. But time and weather took its toll.

So, I made an uneventful trip to Lowe's to purchase a new shovel, but while there, also picked up a hook for the wall of my garage, to give my new shovel a place to stay, safe from the elements that had shortened the life of its predecessor.

Funny how different things are when you're spending your own money on something, isn't it?

It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the previous shovel. I was glad to have it, used it for its intended purpose when it suited me, but took no great care to ensure its longevity or protect it from the wear and tear of time and trial.

That's so often the difference between the one who has paid the price for something and the one who hasn't.

How ironic that some of the relationships we claim to value the most are so often left standing against a backyard fence, exposed to needless wear and tear, yet assumed to be ready for the demand and strain of the dig when called upon.

How do we treat our relationships?

Like treasures for which we've committed our time, our resources, and ourselves? Or like hand-me-down tools to use but not preserve?

Ultimately, how do we treat our relationship with God?