Welcome to part three. This month we have been looking at excerpts from the book I am working on called Nomad, sharing the things God has taught me through military life that have drawn me to Him and helped me to understand more about the Christian walk. It has been an adventure for sure, but one I would never trade. If you are just now joining us, feel free to check out the previous two parts to this series here: Part 1 and Part 2.
Pirate things are pretty cool, but treasure maps are the coolest. Written out on a scroll-like piece of paper, these maps seem buried in just the right place for the one who finds it. Opening it up, we see dotted lines marking trails from one place to the next. I have never seen a treasure map that goes straight from point A to point B. First you go around this tree and look for the banana, then you go up this hill by the waterfall, after that go through the tree tunnel till you get to rock formation – from one point to the next, sometimes even crossing back over the original path, the destination is found where “x” marks the spot.
Treasure maps are usually pretty easy to follow as long as each point along the way is still as pictured on the map. But what if you are supposed to make it from point A to point B and you have never seen the map? Arriving at the destination, making sure to visit each point along the way, becomes a much more interesting adventure when following a guide with the map rather than holding the map ourselves.
Sound familiar? God has the treasure map. He drew it! He can see the whole island from the place where we start to the place we will finish. He knows the stops in between and would hate for us to miss a single one. He knows the topography of the land – from the highest mountains with awesome views to the frightening valleys filled with shadows. He has it all mapped out – for our good.
I am challenged by this at times because I like to hold the map. I like to see where we are going, how many stops before we get there, and for what I need to be prepared. I have even asked God a couple of times to send me the information via certified mail from the U.S. Postal Service, but no go.
He keeps the map, and probably a good thing, too. If I had the map, I am pretty sure we would find a shortcut somewhere, determine not to even go some places, and surely get myself lost at least once. This is my track record.
In the event you don’t know, I was a U.S. Marine for a while . . . a very short while. During our training, we were expected to learn Land Navigation. I was pretty good at this in class. I could find the distance between two points and even find the two points on a map. I passed every test with flying colors. Out in the forests of northern Virginia, though, land navigation was a completely different thing than sitting in the classroom.
Looking at terrain on a map and looking at it in real life – well, let’s just say it didn’t look the same to me. But in order to pass land navigation, we had to be able to accomplish the task in both locations. While out in the field one day, it was my turn. I was to “lead” a team of about twelve candidates from point A to point B. A grade would reflect my success in the end.
The smartest thing I did was pick out a point man. He was great. A prior-enlisted infantry guy, he knew land navigation so well he could have probably led us through a complete desert void of landmarks. Well, I got us started, pointed us in what I thought was the right direction and off we went.
As we held our weapons at the ready and quietly walked through the woods, my point man and I would periodically reassess our course and correct if necessary. Keeping our team together, focusing on our objective, I remember the butterflies in my stomach as I wondered if we were even in the ballpark of our destination. Amazingly enough, we did end up at point B. Standing there was our platoon commander, an active-duty Captain tasked with training us for war – she had quite the job, let me tell you. She was surprised to see us so soon – the same thought crossed my mind as well. Following through with the exercise, she asked about the path we took. After an explanation of our planning and course, she was pleasantly surprised at my ability and even complimented our team on its “thinking outside the box” because we had not really followed the intended course.
Basically, I had guessed at our course and God blessed me with a great point man. The lesson, though, is not that land navigation is a challenge for me, but that my life is in much better hands if I let someone else give directions.
I would love to carry the map and decide my own path, but I have a feeling that my success would somehow reflect my previous land navigation attempts. On paper, behind a desk, I could measure and plot points, understand and navigate difficult terrain, and even find my destination. Put me out in the real world and my success would be minimal if I even left point A.
I would probably end up trying to avoid all of the stuff in life that I thought might hurt or challenge me. I might also end up sitting on a mountain top just hanging out because I would figure I had plenty of time. The possibility exists as well that I might happen upon places I was never intended to be – like right outside the cave of a bear or the den of wolves. My trip might very well be cut short, completely by accident.
In the end, the whole thing works better if He holds the map. He certainly has a better view than I do and can see the whole picture. My success is far more possible. Still, it doesn’t mean I miss the valleys or that I won’t happen upon a bear or that I won’t ever be in scary places. What it does mean is that the One who holds the map knew where I would be before I got there and has already planned for it.
He knows which fork in the road, how high the mountain is, and when the rain is coming. He also knows the treasure – the place where “x” marks the spot. He designed it. The treasure will be awesome in the end, but I am for sure that this path is not just about the destination. This path is about the treasure along the way as well. The glimpses of Jesus as we go along and the opportunity we have to be Jesus to someone else as well.