The summer I was twelve my family drove from our home in southern Minnesota to South Dakota, a family vacation to see the Badlands and Wall Drug, and Mt Rushmore. The five of us all took our usual places in the car--I was seated behind the driver, my father, of course, for this was 1960 and who drove was never in question. Before we pulled out of the driveway, my father handed back a map to me and said, "Get us there." I became the navigator and quickly learned the mysteries of map-reading. I don't remember much about that trip, except I took my job seriously, certain Dad was dependent on my directions to get us to our destination. Oh, and I remember the name of one teeny town we passed through, Pumpkin Center, South Dakota. Perhaps that is when my obsession for pumpkins began!
I will always be grateful for that teachable moment.
Fast forward many, many years, and my husband and I are driving with our twelve year old granddaughter Maren to Nebraska to see the sandhill cranes (See the previous post.) and Bruce hands Maren the map and says, "Get us there." Actually, they looked over the map together, and he pointed out features on the map--how to read it and what valuable information it shows. This was a new experience for her, as it had been for me 55 years ago, and she did a great job, even when we were forced to take a detour because of a major accident on the highway.
When Maren was just five years old, and we would be going somewhere in the car together, we played a made-up game called Pilot to Navigator, Navigator to Pilot. I tested her knowledge of left and right, and I had her point out various landmarks. I hoped to develop an awareness in her of where she was and how we arrived there. And with her newly acquired map-reading skill she can now figure out how to get where she wants to go, as well.
Isn't that what we are all trying to do?
Understand where we have been.
Know where we are.
Know how to get where we are going.
Now what is so hard about that?
Obviously, that is the work of a lifetime.
Perhaps now, as those of us who identify as Christians approach the beginning of the Easter season and those of the Jewish tradition approach Passover, it is a good time to look at our life maps. As you look back, how would you describe your relationship with God, the Sacred, the Holy, and how has God led you over both rough and smooth terrain?
Reflecting on the miles travelled can reveal an "inner map of the feelings life has roused in you, the decisions you have made along the way, and the way you have made them." You can see more clearly "significant landmarks along the way where you feel that something grew inside you, and significant people who have walked alongside you at different stages of your journey and brought you closer to an understanding of yourself." (Inner Compass, An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf, p 17)
Now is a good time, regardless of your beliefs, to stop and look at the map and mindfully take stock of where you are. Is this where you want to be --in your relationships, in your work, in your inner growth, in the way you live and move in our world? And if it isn't, how will getting where you want to be even be possible? Do you even know what that means?
As you know, if you read this blog, I am a big proponent of developing a spiritual practice--a practice of meditation or journal writing, or walking meditation or whatever you choose to do in an intentional and mindful way--and that spiritual practice becomes your map. That spiritual practice leads you to an awareness of who you are and the journey that led you to where you are. Knowing who you are can clarify for you the person you want to be, the person that lives within. We're talking lots of miles here, but such a journey it can be! A pilgrimage.
One more story: When our son was just a little boy, not yet school age, he and I would go for walks in our neighborhood. He stopped to chat with the various neighborhood dogs and wave to cars passing by and he told me about his own personal and often imaginary adventures. When we were blocks away and it was time to start the return trip, I would tell him to "get us home." At each intersection, I asked him, "Left? Right? Or straight ahead?" Sometimes there were wrong turns, but we always got home.
In our lives we need both navigators and pilots, and we each have that opportunity to be a navigator or pilot as well. Knowing where we have been and where we are and using our inner maps can help us find our way.
Are you a good map reader? What map reading skills do you need to improve? Do you know where you have been? Where you are now? And where you want to go? I would love to know.