Following Directions that Defy Common Sense

I read a story this week about problems people are having with the Apple Maps app on newer iPhones and iPads. Two instances have been recorded of drivers seeking directions to the Fairbanks, Alaska airport and being led to the runway rather than the terminal. In both cases, the drivers, who crossed the tarmac to get to the terminal, were unharmed. Apple is acknowledging that there is a problem.

Initially, I was left blaming Apple for releasing a map program that has so many dangerous glitches. (I have also experienced both my iPhone and GPS taking me on roads and routes that were undesirable at best). As I continued through the article it became clear to me that though Apple certainly needs to improve their map, users need to take some responsibility as well. The article concludes: To be fair, the drivers deserve some blame. The maps stop at the runway, but the drivers continued about a mile through a gate, past warning lights, numerous signs and painted concrete markings saying not to proceed. To which airport spokeswoman, Angie Spear remarked, “All of these things were disregarded because people simply trusted their device more than they trusted what they were seeing.”

There is something of how we view God in these stories. Sometimes we are more concerned about following rules than we are living in the common sense freedom and joy of God. I wonder what would have happened to the Israelites had Moses said to himself, “It’s impossible for a bush to be on fire and not burn up. Something doesn’t seem right, but I know that this doesn’t happen, so I’m just going to back out of here.” I wonder what would have happened, had Samuel, who God had directed to choose one of the sons of Jesse as the next king of Israel, would have refused to listen to God. Instead of choosing David who was clearly God’s choice, Samuel would have stuck to his guns about how these kinds of things are done.

What if the church would have been unwilling to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost because “we don’t believe that God appears in tongues of fire and we don’t believe in people speaking in languages that they don’t know or understand?” What if John Wesley had been unwilling to humble himself to preach in fields and city streets despite the fact that this was the only way the marginalized people of England would ever hear the gospel because it’s not the proper way to do these things? What if segments of the church had refused to believe that the ultimate purpose of God for his church was to gift and call women for ministry just as much as men, despite the reality that it was going against the grain of many paternalistic church leaders?

In an early episode of the television show The Office, Michael and Dwight are traveling to visit a client. They are using the vehicle GPS to navigate to their destination. The GPS tells Michael to make a right hand turn; despite the fact that following the directions will lead them right into a small lake, Michael insists that if the GPS tells them to do it, it must be right. He does second-guess that decision as he barely escapes the vehicle and watches the rental car sink into the water.

I wonder what we might be doing blindly without seeing what’s right in front of us. In ways might God be working in our church, in your life, that seems out of the ordinary, seems out of the box from the way in which we believe God can work. Is it possible that God desires to do something new, something fresh, something different and we miss it because we are disregarding the reality of what’s right in front of us. Let’s not be so closed to the unusual ways of God that before we know it we’re watching the church out of touch and sinking into the lake of irrelevancy.