The map is not the territory

One of the in-words at the moment seems to ‘roadmap’ which seems, in the current context of the COVID pandemic, to denote a desire, especially by our leaders, to be seen to be somewhat in control of planning and yet not totally responsible for outcome. I guess to a greater or smaller extent we all do this in our lives as we long to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes of control and chaos.

I have to confess that I am a lover of maps. I have been known to sit in bed poring over an unfolded map as I prepare for an outing, adventure or holiday (when those activities existed!) As I have just moved to a new area, I have just bought a new Ordnance Survey map to see what is around. I have to admit, though, to navigate successfully is not just about looking at a map in the safety and comfort of the home it is also affected by the environment of the journey itself.

Let me give you an example of this. Many years ago, as a young person, I participated in the gruelling Ten Tors event in Dartmoor as part of a team. Sadly, the conditions deteriorated badly and the wind, rain, fog, and ground conditions took their toll upon us and many like us. Despite being skilled in the use of a map and compass we found that the fog prevented us seeing much in the distance by which we could set our maps. In effect we could be holding the compass and walking sideways for all we knew!

I would like to say how our resilience, skill, teamwork, and trust (and my leadership!) saw us through in the end but in reality, a ride out of there in a rescue helicopter turned out to be the most memorable and exciting part of the event for us and many others.

How much would you pay for a map or a plan of how you could navigate life into the future? For most of us enough for today would be fine thank you.

We do have the Bible, as discerned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the supreme authority for all God’s people. We have experience from ourselves and others and we have wisdom and information of all kinds and from many places.

And here is the thing, and the thing which most excites me and inspires me and that is that we have a Saviour Jesus who actually IS the way, the truth, and the life! Even if we often think we are not quite sure where we are heading or we know that we may have stumbled along the path we can meet and encounter Jesus and be accompanied along the way of discipleship.

But as you might expect, there is something more to consider. Discipleship every day is actually much more like pilgrimage than like tourism, in case we just want to tick off some experiences to be had. If I am to follow Jesus, I shouldn’t really think that I can just carry on with life as before even if I might like to. It is time to pivot, maybe, and as we walk along, to lift our eyes to new horizons. Jesus transforms and changes us and the world and even helps us to be the change that we want to see.

Back to my love of maps! I love to take a look when the journey is finished and the adventure at an end to see where I have been (and where I have not been!) If only I was better at doing that in my spiritual life – that it might be deeper, more rooted and more centred at the end of each day.

Whether your journey ends up being short or long and whatever the terrain and environment brings may you discover Jesus as you travel and may share with others where you have been and welcome them onto the path.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash




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