Led Astray by a Misinformed GPS

tomtomMandy came into our lives a little over seven years ago. She has been our faithful companion on many long drives, successfully guiding our “familymobile” to numerous obscure locations. Mandy, of course, is our GPS. We call her this because when she was new, we cycled through all the internally programmed voices available—mimicking everyone from George W. Bush to some sarcastic mate from Australia—but finally decided on a Midwestern female named Mandy.

It has been great to have Mandy in the family. However, we quickly learned something very important about her. Although she is helpful, she is not altogether reliable. Occasionally she commands us to exit the freeway only to get right back on it. She once got us lost in Chicago. On top of all that, she doesn’t keep track of new roads that are built. I suppose I could take the blame for that, as I have not updated her maps since she was new. But, hey, I’d rather pass the buck.

Mandy’s shortcomings are revealed every time we drive toward Indianapolis on the new US 31. All of us in northwest Indiana have a love/hate relationship with this highway that is being reconfigured to facilitate traffic between South Bend and Indianapolis. We complain about the construction and road blockages, but we enjoy shaving a few minutes off our trip and skipping Kokomo completely.

Mandy, however, isn’t so sure. As I near Indianapolis, she repeatedly chides me for ignoring her instructions. “Turn around when possible.” “I said, turn around when possible!” “Recalculating…” “Hey, Bozo, you’re driving through a field!” Well, she doesn’t actually say that, but I know what she’s thinking. A glance at the screen shows my little automotive icon in the middle of a pasture without a road in sight. She must think I am a moron, plowing a minivan through acres of cornfields.

What Mandy doesn’t realize (although I keep telling her) is that I have been following the signs. The road has been re-routed. Vehicles of every kind can now speed along where just a few years ago only combines dared to roam. Mandy just does not have all the information.

Mandy may soon be replaced. She is an old woman in “GPS years.” It takes her forever to warm up on cold winter mornings, and she has developed a habit of relinquishing her hold on the windshield, causing her to tumble into my lap at the most inopportune times. Instead of forking out the money to buy a map update, we might just purchase a new GPS. It will be a sad day, but we need something more reliable.

Unfortunately, Mandy sometimes reminds me of myself. I have an “inner GPS” that thinks it knows the best way to go. It says, “If it feels good, do it. If everyone is doing it, it must be OK.” However, God has road signs that nudge me along certain paths, often contrary to what my inner GPS is telling me.

God’s road signs are found in the Bible. When my inner GPS tells me to “look out for number one,” the Bible tells me to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). When my inner GPS tells me that it’s ok to gossip, the Bible reminds me that God hates one who “sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19). When my inner GPS tells me to desire more riches, the Bible tells me to “be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5). When may inner GPS tells me that I am good enough to make it to Heaven, God tells me that the way to God comes not through “works of righteousness” (Titus 3:5).

We have come to the conclusion that we cannot always rely on Mandy—we must consult the signs that have been erected along the path. Would it also not make sense to heed God’s instructions more than our own inner feelings as we navigate through this life?

This article appeared in the Bremen Enquirer on April 1, 2015, in my column entitled Connections: Relating the Bible to Everyday Life.

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