Column: Mapping out life

The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of LancasterThe Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
I realised the other day I have stopped using maps.

In years gone by I would happily spend hours poring over maps, especially in the run-up to holidays.

I would look for the unusual and plan interesting diversions. My favourite was in the USA where I spied a small town called Everittville only an hour off our route – I just had to build that into the tour!

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My stairway is lined with copies of old maps, including some of Southern Africa showing the development of towns and roads over time.

But now I use a sat-nav. I put in my destination and it tells me how to get there and how long it is likely to take. No further or incidental information mind; it is as if only the destination and delays matter.

Sometimes this means I have no idea where I am in relation to anything else; questions like ‘what’s that hill?’ ‘How far away is such and such a place?’ all go unanswered. Instead of an interweaving of locations there is simply a start and a finish.

This was put into context when I looked at where I will be going to in Peru, to help build a school. Iquitos is the largest city in the world not connected by road to a network of roads. It has a population of 750,000 but you can only get there by air or water.

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The sat-nav offers no routes from the capital, a map only shows the Amazon forest, the River Amazon and a road to neighbouring town.

I will be dependent on our local guide. He will be the one I must put my faith in and trust he takes us the best and safest way. There is no other information available to me, traditional or modern. :

This has helped me understand more clearly what Jesus meant when he said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

He was speaking in a world where there were no maps or sat-nav. There were established routes, some of which were very well trodden. When travelling to new places, a trusted guide, who knows the path and is someone you trust is essential.

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For Christians, Jesus has gone the way before us and shares his knowledge with us. A personal guide is more than a sat-nav; and more informative even than a map. They bring all of whom they are, their connections and understanding.

As George VI said (quoting Minnie Louise Hawkins on the brink of the second world war): “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

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