We Don’t Always Have a Map

Misty views of the beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Misty views of the beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, California

I try to prepare for hikes.  Before we leave home, I’ll try to have a trail description, a map, if possible, and better yet, to have the necessary maps downloaded on my GPS.

Hiking the Castle Trail in Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Hiking the Castle Trail in Badlands National Park, South Dakota

But sometimes I forget, or I think I have maps I don’t have.  Then I find myself hiking with a pretty line on a near-blank GPS screen.

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

It’s not helpful.  I can’t tell where we’re trying to get to, where we are now, or what terrain we’ll have to go through to get to our destination.  I might have a line that will show where I have been and how to get back to the parking area, but it only shows where I’ve been, not where I’m going.

Wheeler Peak from Mt. Walter, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

Wheeler Peak from Mt. Walter, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

I found myself in that situation while hiking Wheeler Peak last spring when I forgot to download the New Mexico maps on the GPS.  We were climbing up the steep side of a mountain, but per the GPS we were in a sea of a flat plain because there weren’t any topo lines to say elsewise.  Thankfully, the trail is well enough defined that we weren’t in danger of getting lost.  The next day, at the library in Taos, I downloaded the proper maps.

Views from Wheeler Peak, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

Views from Wheeler Peak, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

In our Christian lives, when we are entering new places in Christ – some would call it new territory, or a new season – we don’t necessarily have the maps downloaded yet on our spiritual GPSes.  We know Who we are heading toward – sort of like if I have the GPS coordinates for the mountain peak I’m ascending – but we have no idea of the terrain between here and there.

Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing, Utah

Zion Canyon from Angel’s Landing, Utah

There could be rivers to be crossed, valleys to walk in, mountain peaks to ascend.  It could be high elevation or dry as the desert.  We don’t know necessarily where the oases and places of rest and refreshing are, or even the dangerous cliffs, mines, or obstructions to avoid.  It can be a bit frightening.

Looking into the mist on the Mazama Trail, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

Looking into the mist on the Mazama Trail, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

Sometimes we try to find comfort in using our old maps.  The ones we used in the past; the things that worked for us previously.  The problem with this is that in new territory, a new season, the old methods don’t necessarily work.

Clouds on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

Clouds on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

It would be sort of like me thinking, “Well, I don’t have the maps to ascend Wheeler Peak, but I’m sure the Colorado maps around Mt. Elbert would work just as well.”  Both are mountains, both are state high points.  But trying to use the South Mount Elbert Trail map to climb Wheeler Peak just wouldn’t work.

Mt. Elbert Trail, San Isabel National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Elbert Trail, San Isabel National Forest, Colorado

Sometimes God gives us maps in the new place He has called us.  But other times we are invited to explore – to find the new destinations or places of interest or refreshing along the way.  Or God will tell us a new method and we can try it out.  It’s a bit of trial and error sometimes, but God remembers that we’re dust (Psalm 103:14) and He’s there to help us to our feet again if we fall down.

Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington

Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington

Someday the area will seem as familiar as the old, but for now, we can trust that God has a map – even if we don’t.