Taught by God

I was a little nervous this week at the prospect of attending a meeting across the city, in a district I don't know well. I avoid driving on the busy motorways at the best of times, but even more so when I am not totally sure where I am going. That is, I was nervous until I remembered that my new phone has a GPS function, and that on a recent trip to Taupo, I had finally worked out how to access "driving instructions." Before I left home, I entered the street address of my destination, and laid the phone in a safe hands-free position on the passenger seat beside me. The novelty of being instructed by a disembodied (British male) voice was quite a thrill as I made my way across town. At one stage I thought I had a clear idea where I was going - there is a motorway exit bearing the name of the street where I was headed - but no, "the Voice" told me to turn off the motorway two kilometres earlier than I expected. I followed "his" advice and that turned out to be a sound choice, as the street of that name is a major throughway with numbers of traffic lights, and the route offered by the GPS was in fact shorter.

I was reminded, as I drove, of a favourite verse of mine from the prophet Isaiah: "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21). It was truly spiritual for me that day to hear this "voice" over my left shoulder doing exactly that. I know it isn't the voice of God and that it's not even a foolproof navigation system. But it got me to my meeting safely and I am still naive enough to feel a sense of wonder at being told "you have arrived at your destination" and finding I am indeed there. For me, its a wonderful metaphor for God's presence with me as I daily navigate my way through difficult territory or towards a heretofore unknown destination. His guidance is to be trusted. Another favourite passage - Jesus' words in John 6: 45 - says "It is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me."

My journey home gave me different experience of "the Voice." It was after ten pm, and I didn't think I needed to take the motorway through the central city. There is a back way, perhaps slightly longer, but more user-friendly in case of breakdown etc. As I turned right, away from the main route, the voice told me firmly to turn left now - several times. In fact it took about three suburbs - perhaps twelve minutes of driving - before "he" accepted my reroute and started giving sensible instructions. This of course is how the software is written, and on a Nokia it is pretty basic. When we used a Garmin GPS in Ireland, the programming was more robust, and the Voice responded to human overriding of her (female that time) advice with the words "recalculating, recalculating," and unless we were clearly headed down a blind alley (gentle advice to make a U turn) offered a new route based on the change of plan.

On Tuesday though, there was only this constant desire (I know I am anthropomorphising shamelessly) for me to return to the standard route. That spoke to me of God's longing for us to stay on the narrow path. Even when we are determined to stray, he calls us back, and reminds us of where we should be headed. But to the end, he stays with us, and in compassion gives new guidance based on our (perhaps faulty) choices. We can't override him out of our life; he sticks with us, still offering help and directions, even if we have made some major blunders along the way. "I will never fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1: 5. I'm glad of that.

To Chew Over: When this week have you experienced the Voice of God helping you experience new ways? or calling you back to his path?

He has brought us this far by his grace

He has led us by fire and by cloud

He has brought us to Zion to look on his face

Oh blessed oh blessed be God.

Blessed be God, blessed be God, blessed oh blessed be God.

He has sheltered us under his wing

He has planned every path that we've trod

He has brought us to Zion to look on his face

Oh blessed oh blessed be God.

C Bonnie Low