Journal entry 122911: Recalculating hope

It was Thursday morning, December 1st when I programmed my destination for the day – Buena Vista, Colorado - before leaving Denver International Airport’s Budget Rental Car Lot in my 4WD Jeep (alas, it was orange). My GPS started giving polite directions immediately and I felt safe and cared for, especially since it was snowing heavily and I wanted to concentrate on the road and not on my map.

But I knew something my GPS didn’t know: I was going to venture off I-70 to Prospect Park in Wheat Ridge and go for a run. Therefore I was prepared to hear “Recalculating” as soon as I took the exit for Kipling Street. I also got a whole new set of instructions.

But of course, I didn’t follow them; instead, I kept driving my route to the park. At every turn I heard the same sequence, “Recalculating” and another set of instructions to help me recover from my errors. Errors which, in the “mind” of my GPS, were beginning to pile up.

Being corrected over and over soon became irritating. I looked for a manual override button that would tell the GPS I had made the exit ON PURPOSE and to leave me alone about it and that I was a big boy and knew what I was doing, but there was no button. My unit didn’t have that feature.

But the GPS was having none of my rebellion. It didn’t give up. It still kept trying to steer me back to the Interstate.

It was, however, remarkably patient. It did NOT scream, "you dufus-head, can't you even follow basic directions."  No, it simply said, "Recalculating," and patiently gave me new directions toward my destination. Every time, over and over.

Some people consider the “Recalculating” message a patronizing, whiney, unwanted reminder of past mistakes. But it could be worse. It could say, “You missed your turn AGAIN, and now you are done for. There is no recovery. Pull to the side of the road, unload your car, drop a match in the gas tank, and signal a passing motorist for help. You are hopeless.”

I suppose you could say my GPS finally found satisfaction after I finished running and followed its persistent directions back to my route and obediently followed for the next 120 snowy miles to Buena Vista. We even shared long bouts of meditative silence once the GPS trusted me to stay the course.

Well, the point of my trip was to attend a men’s retreat, and in the Friday session one of the speakers, Sam Williamson, made the comment that the two best words in the English language were: “recalculating route.” He said, “They are good words because they represent hope.”

It was one of those rare times when I understood the weight of his statement the minute I heard it. Just a few hours before, when my own GPS said “Recalculating,” it wasn’t reminding me that I’d made a mistake. It was saying, “Berry, you aren’t lost forever. I can get you where you want to go, and I can do it from right here. You don’t have to go back to the point where you deviated from the original route. And you aren’t done for. Your turn isn’t over. Just give me a couple of seconds to recalculate. It might not be the route that locals would favor. But it will get you there. Just trust me.”

Williamson’s point was how wonderful it is to know God treats us the same way. God says, “It’s OK. Your wrong turn wasn’t fatal. You aren’t done for. Unlike Inigo Montoya, you don’t have to go back to the beginning. I can get you where you need to go, starting from here.”

Even when I veer off the optimum route on purpose to squeeze in a run or buy a giant Diet Coke, or even if I simply think I know better, God still speaks gently. He never says, “You did that on purpose. If you want My help, get your own self back on the right road. And do it now.”

No, He calmly reassures me by reminding me that He can get me where I need to go, I don’t have to backtrack, He can recalculate the route from …

I took the wrong engineering job? “Recalculating.”

I have to start over and go back to school long after I’d assumed I’d be done? “Recalculating.”

We got pregnant five years earlier than we wanted? “Recalculating.”

I didn’t get that promotion that seemed to be in-the-bag and now my career is in shambles? “Recalculating.”

Our delightful empty-nest years are suddenly more crowded than I ever expected? “Recalculating.”

I have arthritis in my knees when I have so many more miles to run and I finally have enough free time to do it? “Recalculating”

I can’t get a publisher or agent to even look at one of my books, even after I was certain this was my calling and purpose? “Recalculating.”

Are you kidding me? Retirement will take ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR? “Recalculating”

I lost a city-wide election after giving my life away for twelve years? “Recalculating.”

OK, so maybe the story of life doesn’t follow the simple route that locals would favor, and maybe most of the detours came from our own presumptions or miscalculations, but we aren’t done for. There is hope: “Recalculating.”

I’m writing this as we acknowledge the end of 2011 and stare at the beginning of 2012. Often the end of a year is frustrating as we dwell on all our wrong turns and rebellious detours and blown resolutions. But the New Year is an opportunity to start over, not from where you thought you’d be, but from where you are now. Recalculate now. New Years is a season of hope, knowing that God hasn’t forgotten about you, and He can get you where you need to go. Just trust Him.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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