The other day had a first for me. I went for my first long road trip (500+ miles and a little over 8 hours in the car) without a map or an atlas. Instead, I was simply equipped with a GPS device giving me turn-by-turn directions to the retreat center for the Massenetta Middle School conference. I thought it was going to be a good thing, but I instead found that I felt like I was missing something the entire trip. While I made it to Harrisonburg with no problems and no missed turns, I felt like I was missing the big picture. I was missing looking at the overall picture of where I was going and how much further there was to go. I even missed the interesting dance that it took to flip through an atlas while driving solo and staying on the road…
I remember many long drives with my parents and seeing my mom up in the front passenger seat, atlas folded back across her lap as she followed the trip and how much further there was to go. There were even a few extra scenic routes that were planned along the way as a result. I also thought of my friend Joe who has an atlas that he highlights the routes he takes on roadtrips as a way of keeping track of his journeys.
As I drove across through the beauty of the hills of West Virginia and Western Virginia today, I wondered what I was “losing” as the electronic female voice gently guided me on my journey. What was the record of my journey? Is it simply an entry in the history log on the GPS? What of the scenic route that appears on a map that seems like it might be an interesting road to follow? Last time I checked, my Nuvi doesn’t tell me when there is a possible scenic route 10 miles ahead.
My wife mentioned something the other day that I honestly didn’t think a lot of until today. She noted that she wanted to be sure that our children could still navigate by a map and not simply by GPS devices, Google Maps, and Mapquest. There is profound wisdom in those words. While there are the basics of reading a map for helping people get from point A to point B, there is also the beauty in seeing the larger whole, in seeing how all the pieces of a journey come together, in being able to follow the traces of the journey we take.
Moving this into the realm of faith, I think that’s why I have not given up my paper-paginated Bible in favor of devotions using Logos Software on my computer or an e-reader like the Kindle. There are the traces of the journey that I can be reading my well-worn Bible and find a note that I wrote in the margins a few years ago and reconnect with that experience once again. There are the small creases in pages or stains from a drink that splattered that remind me that I had been that way before. I am reminded of Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
As my family goes on vacation for a few weeks that will include many miles of driving, I think that while the GPS device will be in the car, I will also have an atlas along and probably will have some little maps for the little ones so they can “follow the journey” as well.