A colleague of mine and I were discussing stewardship over dinner at an airport. The previous Sunday as a pastor at a Lutheran Community Church he had made the annual pitch to the congregation to make a financial commitment to the church. Similarly, my priest made a pitch for the same. He asked me to critique my pastor’s presentation and I shared that he had used a visual representation of a bowl of apples as a metaphor for the financial treasure our Lord gives us. He then picked a single apple from this bowl overflowing with apples and cut it in half to show us how it is divided. As I peered around the church the sea of faces ranged from delighted to indifferent to angry. I explained to my colleague that people don’t like to be sold to in this day and age. So, then he shared what he did and went into the scriptures and how he learned in theology school the interpretation of “steward’ in Greek meant …. That nothing belongs to us it is given from our master and he wants us to be fiscally responsible. He further discussed how we ask God to give us extraordinary things, but we struggle to share one-tenth of the gifts he gives us toward his church. What if God just gave us one-tenth of what we have now? Then he asked if it were me doing the pitch what would I say? Hmmm - I would say ... How many of you went to Starbucks today? Did you have a Tall, Grande or Venti? How much was that 4 or 5 dollars? Why do you spend that much on a cup of coffee when you could go to 7-Eleven for less than half of that? I’d let the congregation answer and my assumptions would be that they’d say because I want it, I deserve it, I work hard for my money and if I want to spend $4 or $5 dollars on a cup of coffee that’s my business. My response would be when it comes down to it – it’s something that you value it sparks a feeling or sense of something you enjoy. Do you see value in being a member of this community and sharing your time, talent and treasure? Then my colleague dropped the bomb that sparked this blog. He said, your “why don’t you value God like you value Starbucks” analogy is kind of like my “Why don’t I trust God like GPS” analogy! I laughed so hard when he said it – because it so resonated for me I had to write a blog about it!
In the old days as a trainer my weekly routine was to go to MapQuest and printout directions from point to point and it helped me feel safe to know – no matter where I was in my journey, there was no worry about getting lost. Then I bought my Samsung Note and using the Google Maps app it really provided the comfort and security of not getting lost as long as my phone was fully charged for the journey. How could I trust this device with my life’s journey over God? Well, that’s easy it’s never let me down and I’ve always arrived safely and in many cases early, because it provides the fastest route. It automatically alerts me if there will be a delay and updates my arrival times automatically – why wouldn’t I trust it.
On the other hand God has let me down on my life’s journey. When I anticipated a smooth ride through life devoid of traffic jams – he hasn’t provided me with notifications to help me avoid road construction, detours, dead-ends or updated directional signage. I’ve been made to feel lost on numerous occasions.
Being stuck in a traffic jam creates such negative feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety and fear. It’s really about control – we have done everything we thought we should to be prepared for this journey and as my husband so often says it only takes one “person”, usually he uses an expletive – to ruin a best laid plan. So many times in my life I’ve planned my life to unfold a certain way and something happens that was out of my control and it ruins my plan. For some reason it just seems to me when you are a good person and do the right thing God should reward that with a life that speeds along in the HOV lane and when that doesn't happen my trust in the promises of God is affected.
Why can’t God be like an app and provide me with notifications when I’m traveling on the road of life and there is road construction ahead? It would be so easy if every morning when looking in the mirror just over my shoulder, there would be a flashing sign to alert me God is working on this situation, this relationship or this dream needs to be re-paved. If only people could have blinking signs on their foreheads to alert us some aspect of who they are is under construction – so we would be more patient and understanding in many situations. Detours really wreak havoc for us who pride ourselves on following a beaten path, routine, rules or policy. When detours crop up in our lives it makes us feel uncomfortable with “Change”. I know this road and how long it takes to get me from one point to the other with or without traffic so I can plan my route. I’ve been doing the same tasks related to my role in this profession at this company for years – in fact I can do this job with my mind closed. Rules are not made to be broken they are meant for compliance and order in all things. Policy helps to establish standards of behavior in our lives and work places. Welcome to the 21st Century where there are detours everywhere – from what we admire to how we worship. Why does God allow things to happen that make me feel uncomfortable or lost on my life’s journey? Why can’t he tap into my behavioral data port and exempt me from such detours by notifying me of the changes in advance like the re-routing feature that automatically puts me safely and securely back on the right road to follow for my life’s journey. The most painful aspects of our lives is when we reach a dead-end. How could we travel so far for so long only to reach a dead-end on our life’s journey? Sadness, anger, loss, depression and abandonment from God creep into our mind, body and soul. A sense of resentment causes us to turn away from trusting God, because if he loves me he would have sent me a message – “an alternate faster route has become available” and I could have taken the option, but because God is not GPS he doesn’t send these type of messages so I don’t trust him anymore. Even if we figure out we must back-up or make a U-turn to get back on track we don’t absolve him for making us feel the way we did. Don’t you love how GPS can sense when we are in the dark or light? It changes the colors of the screen as we drive and updates our arrival time as we move closer to our destination. How great would it be if God provided updated directional signage? If I could see it was going to be a dark day, maybe I’d call in sick? Wow! If I could know how many years, months, days, hours or minutes I was to reaching the end of a journey, the virtue of patience could be so much more attainable.
Why don’t I trust God like GPS? It’s simple right – we can’t see him, touch him or hear him like we do a digital device. If the digital device malfunctions we accept it as an anomaly or a software glitch that will be addressed in the next update. When God malfunctions there is no acceptance of maybe this happened for a reason and it’s a necessary part of the journey. Nope God should never allow me to be in a position where I feel uncomfortable. The thing is our mindset must change to understand there are many factors that affect our life’s journey and the more we try to plan, control or expect an outcome God works like a GPS by re-routing our path. Much like our understanding of always seeking a power source to fuel our devices, we must fuel our faith with things to help us to be prepared for the journey.
It’s much like the refrain from one of my favorite songs “Jesus Take the Wheel”, by Carrie Underwood:
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hand
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I’m on
Jesus take the wheel.