I was short on time, travelling on a narrow road in the right direction but just beginning to realize I had driven considerably past my intended destination. As an extra step of preparedness, I had even photocopied an internet instruction map and placed it on the seat next to me for quick reference.
This particular fact significantly increased my annoyance: how was this overshoot even possible when the map illustrated only one main road into the small town and a single turnoff that led directly to the address I sought?
After making a U-turn on the highway and revisiting each of the cross-roads I had just passed, I indeed found where I was headed…and as I examined the map through the lens of having reached the destination, rather than trying to find it, I discovered where the error had occurred: when the map was enlarged to print, the directional indicators had been cut off. I had no idea how the roads actually collaborated to a north-south-east-west grid. Hence, I had diligently searched for my turnoff on the left side of the road, whereas I would have quickly found it on the right.
Despite feeling both foolish and aggravated at myself, I got the sense that this error had actually tickled the Lord’s funny bone. Exasperated as I was, I felt like He whispered to me, You’re not the only one who has ever cut off a directional marker. My kids misread or cut off My directional markers all the time. And, like you, they end up looking at the map upside down or backwards and come to conclusions based on that error. That’s why I promised to take all those wrong turns and dead ends and make sense out of them, make them work out for good in their lives
Jesus is so gracious, and that was a timely insight for Him to have shared.
I also started thinking about how easy it is for the enemy to use our misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the map to build strongholds of mistrust, unbelief, cynicism and even a hardened heart towards Him.
Delays. Denials. Mis-turns. Tragedies. Unexplained and unexpectedly unfortunate events. Disappointment. Sorrow.
In the midst of experiencing frequent trials and bewilderment, Paul taught, “For I am convinced that neither death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)
Are you as convinced of that, as was Paul?
If not, the map you are following is not properly aligned with one of the most significant directional markers He has given.
We are able to strengthen ourselves in the Lord by reminding ourselves of this truth that Paul speaks. And there’s more: We are also branches of His vine: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser…abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in Him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 4-5, NASB)
I love the way The Message states John 15:1,4: “I Am the real vine and My Father is the Farmer…live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me.”
Paul points out the all-encompassing relationship we have with the Father and Son when he asked, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31, NASB)
That is a good question to ponder. When the “rubber meets the road” and I am personally feeling the skid marks….what are the things I choose to believe about God and His goodness, His guidance, His acceptance of me, His patience, His promises of my destiny?
The truth is, sometimes, we are against us. Sometimes, the enemy is against us. But it is never God who is against us, even when tragedy, the unexpected, disappointment or destruction strikes. The Farmer simply does not go around torching vines, squashing pumpkins or tomatoes, or vindictively destroying His vineyard, the very vineyard He has sacrificed His Son to create and nurture.
Jesus spoke the comforting words, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Josh. 1:5, Heb. 13:5) Actually, Joshua 1:5 states “I will not fail you or forsake you,” while Heb. 13:5 rephrases the promise, “For He has said, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” The Passion Translation phrases it, “For hasn’t He promised you, ‘I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen My grip/hand on your life!”
Quick, align your map with the markers of His inseparable love, our connection with Him as our Vine, His championing our progress forward in every kingdom endeavor. His Hand is actively and positively at work, He is walking with us, in us, and holding our lives tightly, even possessively.