Maps intrigue me. I miss the day when the front seat was filled with an oversized, impossible to fold back the right way good old fashioned road map. I get the benefit of gps navigation and having that mysterious voice echo through your car, “turn left in one mile.” But with a paper map you get a big picture view, the lay of the land. You notice off the path towns and places you might want to stop and explore along the way. For me, I can remember directions much better if I can see how the route is laid out. I might not even need a map next time. More than just road maps interest me. It’s important to know the states and countries of the world – and where they are.
My husband travels a good bit for his job. He jets all over the U.S. As a hidden geography lesson and a tool to track where in the world our daddy is we started mapping his travels. A large map for our home had been on my wish list for some time. My mom gave me a huge box of old National Geographic magazines. There in the midst of all those magazines was a stack of maps that would come inserted inside select issues. Pouring through my new found options I landed on the perfect size map of the U.S.
First I used an old window that had long lost it’s glass panes. We cut the crosshairs out. I mounted thick corkboard onto plywood by using Gorilla Glue. Note: Thick corkboard is key to me. So many cork squares you find now are too thin. Tacks don’t stay stuck in them. The thicker ones cost more, but are worth it. Next we screwed the cork covered plywood to the back of the window frame.
This map board now hangs proudly in our house. Every time my husband leaves the kids grap a pin and mark where he is headed. They learn the states, but also get to see how far their daddy travels and how hard he works for our family.
In life we typically use maps to plan the road ahead, to mark out where we want to go and how we want to get there. What I believe is even more interesting is mapping backwards. When I look back over my life I can see a series of life changing moments and events. Places in time that changed the course of my life. Events that at the time may not have seemed monumental, but now I can see exactly what a huge catalyst they were to where I am now. Hindsight is 20/20. If I could go back and stick a thumb tack in those spots on the map I would see a relentless pursuit. The blueprint of a desperate chase would take shape in the trail of pushpins. I would see how God pursued me all the days of my life. Throwing up hedges of protection, roadblocks and closed doors. Then there would be all the markers of times he tried to wreck my world so I would finally choose him. There are lots of moments he reached out to me, reached down into the slimy pit I put myself in and asked me to grab hold. But I said no. Many times. I can also see in the trail those glorious blessings that have no other explanation besides God’s hand. Then there are stops along the way where doors were opened and seeds were planted, to bloom at a later date.
Yes, mapping backwards is important. Nowhere on my map is there a hole, a blank spot or a path I traveled alone. God was always right there beside me, even when I didn’t know it, recognize him, trust him or make the choice to follow him. Looking back lets me see firsthand how he never left me, just like he promises. The lessons, growth, struggles, triumphs, failures, joys, bad decisions and grace that I now see in my rear view mirror give me hope and confidence for the future. This is a bittersweet feeling. I am anxious about the trials that promise to come. Because they will come. I trust our mighty Lord, but I am human. Trust + trials ≠ easy. On the other hand I am like a rollercoaster junkie waiting to see what exciting twists, tunnels and loopdy loops are on the tracks ahead. Most of all I feel blessed.
Thanksgiving pours through me as I look at this trail of tacks on the map of my life. I’m thankful that trials I walked through as a kid made me a stronger woman today. I’m thankful that I haven’t always gotten my way, because his way is so much better. I’m thankful that God protected me when I was wreckless. I’m thankful that he struck a blow as close to my heart as humanly possible to get my attention. I’m thankful he never gave up on me, and never will. I can’t look at this map and wish he would have done anything differently. Would I change some of my choices…without a doubt. But God was perfect.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. God was perfect then, just like today, like he will be tomorrow. Given this truth added to the map I have to look back on, why would I ever fear what the future holds. Often I sit in indecisiveness under the guise of wanting to make the right choice about this or that. By right choice, I mean I want to be in God’s will. The truth is if I am walking with Christ, in prayer and truly seeking his will, there is no wrong choice or path of forward movement. He was there before when I didn’t consult him, he will be there all the more when I do. Even if I fail, or stumble, or go one way when he wished I went another.
My past, now washed in God’s grace gives me freedom. It’s breathtaking really. Looking backwards I know the route ahead will be fine. The big picture view is clear, just like on that old Rand McNally I can never get folded. My prayer for you today is that you will spend a little time mapping backwards. And that my friend, will help you move forward.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
From Amazing Grace by John Newton
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