By CHRIS BATES
My uncle and his family lived in Montana during many of my growing-up years. We would go to visit regularly, and I loved my experiences there. My one-year-older cousin and I were close, and we created many outdoor adventures during summers and winters there.
On one such trip, barely old enough to drive, we loaded up his old beat-up Saab with camping gear essentials and hit the road. He knew of a trailhead that opened the door to a wilderness access area with narrow trout streams and amazing views. We strapped on our packs and took off up the trail with plenty of energy and time but no real plan.
While we were en route to a distant, elevated viewpoint camping spot, far off any trail, we stumbled across a nest of yellowjackets, and I was stung on the face several times. The allergic reaction was bad enough that my eyes swelled, and I could not see. My cousin set up a make-do camp on a rocky mountainside, fed us, and we settled in. The next morning, I could see just well enough to hike down slowly, but we had wandered far enough from the trail that it made the next few hours very disconcerting. It was a difficult experience, largely due to our lack of direction and alertness.
Looking back, it is easy to see the lack of readiness in a couple of teenage adventurers. It is also easy to look around today, though, at all of us adults going through life, and see some of the same insufficient preparedness. We typically mean well and strive to have an impactful and fulfilled life. Far too often, however, we just do what we can with each day and do not have a roadmap to direct us. “No man plans to fail,” says Patrick Morley. While that is true, many of us also fail to plan our journey well. How can we best find and use a map to do that?
First, as believers, we are to find our center with God, from which point we can then seek the path that He offers for us. Jesus spent time in the wilderness and moments alone in prayer to find that center and guidance, then went forward with His shared plan of action. We can replicate that exact model by spending time with God as we enter each day, which then becomes each week, month and year.
It is also wise to prepare ourselves, through connection with Him, for contingencies and challenges. 1 John 5:4 says, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.” Without that, we are on our own, impulsively finding the way of our own fruition without the greatest Guide imaginable. The Word and His divine direction show us. That is how we find the map.
Then, we take actions steps to follow the path. It is good to outline goals and work toward them personally and in business, but we can fool ourselves into plateau thinking. Our rhetoric can become a series of false arrivals, thinking that if we can just get that one job, or just make enough money, or find that right significant other, that we will have arrived. We can lose the joy in the journey and the benefits of conquering challenges with His help and that of others. Instead, we should shoot beyond our targets so that we are fully engaged in the process. We should have immortal goal lines rather than ones measured here.
As we go, our fuel should often be found through connecting with and following others. The utter profoundness of “me too” is the most powerful assistance that we can give to each other. It is the respectfulness of relatability. The pathway on the map is not just out and away, it is within, and it is at its best as we walk both with God and with other people who have gone before us or beside us. That is the journey well-traveled. That is how we follow the map.
Finally, we know that the end of the map trail is not the end. The journey does not conclude here in the world. “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21) The key wording in this is “done” — it does not say “well thought” or “well planned” or “well imagined,” it says DONE! We need a map to get there, and then we can follow it on this amazing journey.