I’m not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but when I was in Italy last month, with a friend, I rented a car. We picked it up from Termini (train station) in Rome. Our plan was, over three days, to enjoy Tuscany and Umbria.
I have never driven in Italy before. They drive on the wrong side of the road. The way the Italians drive is also proof that they believe in God. I hired the car only because it had GPS. The woman at the rental counter assured me that the GPS voice was in English. She added that this little box would be happy to tell me where to go.
As we drove away from Termini it was the job of my passenger to operate the navigation system. We got it working only after a couple of hours of confusion (including one particularly difficult half hour when we drove through the same motor-way toll three times).
Within a few hours the GPS was talking to us (in English) and giving us clear directions exactly when we needed them. In the three days we managed to enjoy several small Italian towns: Assisi, Gubbio, San Gimignano, Siena and Florence among other wonderful towns and roads.
There is much to write about in each of these places, but this story is about the GPS.
For the first day we obediently followed every direction of the GPS lady. But it didn’t take too long for us to realise that if we accidentally, or even deliberately misunderstood, ignored or disobeyed her instruction, she would (after a few moments of apparent confusion) re-route us. This meant that if we drove a few miles down the wrong road, she would note that the quickest route to our destination was not to return to the point of deviation, but to move ahead by a new route.
We realised that it was impossible for us to ever be lost! Our lady in the little box knew how to find us, and was very enthusiastic about leading us from wherever we were to wherever we wanted to go.
That is the theological point.
With God, we are never lost. The people we love are never lost. In every moment God knows where we are. It is true that (as with the GPS) I might be in a place that I did not want to be. I could end up in a destination that promised all kinds of beauty and pleasure, but did not deliver at all. But the moment I decide that I want to get back on the road, God will lead me.
To be honest it does get a bit tiresome playing at disobeying the GPS. It is fun for a while to be re-found and re-directed, but in the end I want to be on the road to where I am going.
The voice of God speaking to us through the scripture and Tradition of the Church offers us clear direction. If we follow the voice we are saved a lot of hassle and dead ends. We find that we are less tired. We feel as though we are living more intentionally. We can be more confident about reaching our destinations on time.
When we hear and live by the leadings of God, Life has a purpose.