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Navigating versus Drifting

A number of years ago, my wife and I were returning from a trip up north and were cruising along somewhere down I-75 in Ohio. We had a dinner appointment in Tennessee, but we were making good time and would have plenty of time to get there in time to freshen up first.

Suddenly, traffic came to a standstill. As far as we could see, I-75 South looked like a still-life painting. After 45 minutes of creeping forward, we rounded a curve and saw an exit in the distance, and truckers were getting off there. We consulted our atlas, but it was out of date and didn’t even show that exit. (It was in the days before GPS and smartphones were commonly available.) We were flying by the seat of our pants.

We exited, followed the truckers (they always know the shortcuts, don’t they?) through a little town, and then came to a red light. On the other side of the light the road split at a Y. The truckers were all going to the left, but that was away from the interstate. Could that be right? We debated what to do.

Just as the light turned green, I noticed a AAA office on the left. AHA! I jerked the car into the turn lane and darted across oncoming traffic and into the AAA office. They could tell us what to do!

The representatives there explained that an accident involving a chemical truck had occurred about 15 miles farther south on I-75, and traffic would not move for hours until it was cleaned up. They directed us back to the main street and to the right at the Y. We followed their directions and spent an hour or so meandering along a picturesque, bucolic two-lane back road with almost no traffic before finally returning to the interstate. We arrived at our destination just in time for our appointment. Who knows where we might have ended up had we followed the crowd of truckers.

I’ve often thought of that incident when I contemplate our life’s journey. Some people merely drift through life; others navigate.

The drifters have no fixed plan (destination). They never act purposefully because they have no definite purpose; they merely react to whatever happens. That’s how the biblical character Samson lived for most of his life. Only at the end did he act with a definite purpose, but it ended so tragically. What might he have accomplished for good had he navigated rather than drifting?

Those who navigate through life, however, have a plan, a purpose, a calling on which they act. They have a fixed destination and, using the tools available to them, they move steadily toward it. If they happen to get off track occasionally, they get back on track as soon as they realize their error.

We have all the tools needed to navigate this life, if we’ll only avail ourselves of them.

We all have within us a “moral compass,” our conscience, which convicts us when we do what we know is wrong. But the conscience operates only on what has been programmed into it. If we haven’t been taught correctly, the conscience can lead us astray. It can be wrong, deceptive, weak, even seared and useless. So it’s not always wise to “let your conscience by your guide.” Like a GPS, it’s only as good as the “software” we’ve loaded into it.

But believers in Christ also have other tools. The Bible, the Creator’s “user’s manual” or atlas for our journey; the Holy Spirit, who teaches us and is the voice behind us that says, “This is the way, walk in it”; the perfect example in Jesus Christ, who came to earth with the single-minded purpose of dying for the sins of mankind; and other older and wiser advisers. But we must believe that Bible and have such confidence in its truths that we obey them. We must believe and obey the Son. And we must not reject the advice of our elders. After all, “They know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two.”

To be truly successful in life, including in our writing, we must avail ourselves of these tools. Rather than merely drifting along with all the other junk in the stream, we should trust and use our God-given “instruments” to navigate through life.

Fellow writers, do you have a plan, a destination for your writing? Are you working daily toward that goal? Or are you merely drifting?

Think about it!

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