Merilyn Packer pulls out a different sort of map to navigate her way through life…

Whenever we go travelling somewhere I generally do most of the navigating. My husband’s turn of mind doesn’t exactly match mine and I don’t always do the job to his exact specification. On the whole, though, we manage quite well. He prefers the GPS on the new iPhone, but I don’t relate to that as well. I like looking at maps. Maps are fascinating. Maps are comforting. Maps become my friends after a few days of folding and refolding them, after a few days of poring over them and pondering various routes and landmarks.

For the duration of a journey a map is vital, central to every day. As soon as we get home, most of them go into the bin. In the normal course of my life, the number of kilometres from Waimangu to Te Kuiti or from Keith to Mt Gambier is of no interest to me. Funny about that. However, when I’m on the road to Mt Gambier or to Te Kuiti and I want to be there by a specific time the number of kilometres is of vital interest. I look from the map to the landmarks and signposts, then back to the map over and over when there’s a time constraint. Will we get there on time? Knowledge is potential peace of mind in that situation.

To navigate well in the real world you do need to look carefully. You have to picture each leg of the journey from different angles or you get a wrong idea of what a certain key intersection will look like. That wrong idea doesn’t matter for most of your life, but can make a huge difference just at the crucial moment when you come to that intersection. On paper it looked like a clear turn left after a slight bend but of course the paper is flat. In real life you might turn a bend and descend rapidly as you approach a bridge over a swiftly flowing river. There are headlights coming at you as evening rapidly closes in. There are a couple of small turnoffs from the road you’re on but are they entrances to properties or public roads? Beyond the bridge is a T-junction with a darkening slope of rock straight ahead. Is this the place you turn left? A careful examination of the maps and the signs makes all the difference between peace and tension, between success and frustration, between getting there and not.

It’s passé to liken the Bible to a map, but I can’t help but think of it whenever I’m navigating. It would be hopeless going on a holiday in a new place without a map. It’s hopeless venturing into life without God’s map. Why would I think I don’t need his wisdom and guidance to navigate my life?

You can possess a map and not need it for years. Then it becomes vital when you’re actually travelling that terrain. Similarly various bodies of wisdom in the Bible come into their own as you reach a different terrain in your life. Instructions to honour your parents, or not exasperate your children, or keep your attention on God’s power and beauty, might go right over your head a lot of the time. It’s a different matter when you’re grappling with issues with your parents, or sleep deprived with toddlers, or knocked over by disappointment. God’s input into each section of your life becomes vitally relevant.

And the moral guidelines are so powerful. It’s of great benefit to have studied the map carefully. Flat on paper, God’s instructions – for example about sexual choices – might look clear, easy, even boring. When you’re moving at speed downhill with headlights in your face and evening falling, the terrain looks really different from what you’d imagined. It’s powerful to have carefully studied the map beforehand to know for sure that ‘this is where you turn left’.

The breathtaking coastlines and amazing views are no less vivid because I had a map to help me get there. The experience is no less personal because others have seen it before and drawn a map.

I’m so grateful for the Bible.