Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Guide

Ron and I had the marvelous privilege of chaperoning 200 high school band/choir students to New York City last April. Our five coach buses emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel filled with wide-eyed tourists ready to see the sights and procure vast amounts of street-vended merchandise. Our seasoned guide permitted us as much liberty to explore Manhattan in small groups as he deemed safe but, the balance of the time, we moved from place to place in a solid block of humanity six deep and spanning an entire city block easily identifiable as out-of-towners by our lavish “I <3 NY” attire. At those times, our only goal was to keep our eye on the guide’s umbrella waving overhead through the sea of people and stay with our group.

On Day 3, we trooped across Brooklyn Bridge en masse and headed for the 911 memorial at Ground Zero. The mood was both somber and eager as we anticipated visiting such a meaningful place. With admonitions of proper protocol ringing in our ears, we trooped behind the bobbing umbrella. A few blocks from our destination, our guiding icon did a strange thing. It weaved across a street, with our large entourage stopping traffic in both directions, then re-crossed the same street half a block later. Then the umbrella stopped. We couldn’t see the guide under the umbrella and, at times, we couldn’t see even his umbrella. People began to complain, sitting on curbs and leaning against buildings to wait. Some were hot. Some had blisters on their feet. Some were hungry. Some worried we wouldn’t make the next engagement on our agenda in time. When we resumed walking, we crossed the same street for the third time, turned around, and went back the way we’d come. Even the highest of spirits had crumbled by now and sincere grumbling broke out in the ranks. What are we doing? Is he crazy? Why are we going back and forth across this same stupid street? You can imagine.

As it turns out, our guide knew stuff we didn’t. Leading our entourage, he came to a road that was blocked by police security and had to make a sudden change of plans. He couldn’t stop and explain his actions to our satisfaction until later. He wasn’t able to take a poll to see how we all felt about the situation or have us vote on what we thought was the best course of action. He just had to act. And those of us in the back who couldn’t see what was going on quickly became frustrated. We doubted the guide’s intelligence, his kindness, his sanity.

As I recall that experience with the NYC tour guide, I realize that I often respond like that to God’s guidance. He sees the whole picture that is my life from beginning to end—and not just my own personal life but with intricate wisdom understands how my brief existence interconnects with other people both dead and living and yet to live—in one seamless continuum. Many times it seems God is taking me on senseless detours and I rant: Why are we turning around? Why can’t I go there? We aren’t supposed to end up here, it’s not on my itinerary! This doesn’t make any sense! I grit my teeth, seething and incensed, though I am unable to see above my own head or the crowd pressing around me. Somehow, I feel I am in a position to judge Him who sees and knows all, to counsel the loving Father who is responsible and trustworthy from generation to generation. Humbly, I am reminded of the Proverb, “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Do I, with my limited knowledge, foresight, and vision really want to chart my own path? I think not.

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