Landmarks are Our Friends

By:  Staci Stallings

I’m a woman, for anyone wondering.  Women are different than men.

One way women are different is that men navigate by directions.   “Go North three miles, then turn East.  When you come to the fork in the road, take the one that banks south…”

See, I’d probably end up in China with those kinds of directions.  First of all, go north three miles starting from WHERE exactly?  And what happens if I don’t start where you think I am?  And which way is east again?  I can never remember, is that to the right or to the left of north?

Granted, I have learned my directions when I’m here in the great Panhandle of Texas, where everything is flat, and few towns are big enough to be lost in for very long.  But I’m still quite directionally challenged if you want to know the real truth.

Today I was playing a Wii game I got a couple months ago.  The game is rather simple.  You walk through a town and you build the town by collecting “chips” for the steps you take.  It plays music, and you get chips for when you step on the beat correctly.  The faster the beat, the more steps you take.  It’s fun and a challenge.  (And it helps with melting some weight off too… It’s called “Walk it Out” for anyone interested.)

Well, I’ve been building my town for over a month.  I’ve got a church (found that one nearly right off).  I’ve got a farm with flower fields, purchased at a thousand steps each.  I’ve got a park and a fountain, and a lake and a whole bunch of cherry trees.  I’ve also got all of the windfarm type windmills, three hotels (think the tall Miami beach front kind), and a whole residential area.

Now when I started, the whole thing was pretty much blank.  It gave me trails and streets, but you couldn’t really tell what anything was or where you were in relation to anything else.  It would say inane things like, “Shopping District” and “Lookout Mountain.”  Okay.  What’s that?

As you walk, you have the option of clicking on things you want to buy when you go past them.  It will put them in the little box at the top.  You can do three of those at a time.  So you click three things you want to buy and then you walk until you have enough steps that it automatically purchases them… except my problem was, I kept getting lost when I went back to find things I had already purchased.  I would click on something that was, say, 200 chips and then walk.  By the time I got to 200, I couldn’t remember where that little icon was to get the thing to build.  I lost more houses, street lights, and palm trees than I even want to acknowledge.  I’d walked around and around blocks going, “Where did that thing go?”  (You have to click on the little glowing icon again to get it to build the thing after you’ve collected enough chips.)

Today for the first time I noticed that suddenly I wasn’t lost anymore.  I could click on an icon, walk around even into vastly different areas, and I knew how to find it back!  As I was pretty much running trying to keep up with the song, I started wondering why that was.  I mean, I can go anywhere on the whole island now.  I can walk 1,000 or more steps and easily find my way back to the little icon I just purchased.  So how could I do that now, and I couldn’t when I started?

In the game, there is a map but no north, south, east, or west.  What you get as you build your world are landmarks.  You begin to understand that the lake is just down this road from the apartment buildings, and just past the hotels you can get to the road that leads out to the lighthouse.  Around the lighthouse path you come to the… Shopping District.

It seems very simple now, but I’m telling you for more than a month I was LOST, going around clicking things, coming back only to find they weren’t where I thought they were.

So, what does any of this have to do with anything you might ask.  Well, a lot actually.

When I first really started with getting in touch with the God who wanted a relationship with me and not just my obedience, it was a real challenge.  I was in really unfamiliar territory. I had all these roads and no landmarks.  I walked and walked, but it felt very confusing.  Was I going the right direction?  Had I been down this road before?  Was this leading me where I was wanting to go or was I going in the wrong direction altogether?

And then God and I began building some landmarks together.  Gratitude for one.  I learned to be grateful out loud for the littlest things He did in my life–the letter that came at just the right time, the phone call that lifted my spirits, the person I needed to see showing up at just the right moment through no effort of mine.

Trust was another one.  I began to see that I wasn’t making things work out on my own nearly so much as I thought I was.  I began to see how God set things up much better than I ever could!  Like this weekend in Sunday School.  I took my kids to the chapel to sing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  While we were praying, our priest came in–he was apparently wandering around the church and heard us and decided to join us.  After we finished, he suggested we take the kids to the “big church” to see the painting of the Divine Mercy.  So he took the kids while I put my guitar away and rounded up cards on the Chaplet to give them.

When I walked into “the big church,” there were my kids down front, sitting on the floor!  Our priest was explaining the painting.  When I got there, I took over and explained what the prayer of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy means… that the Jewish people had animal sacrifices, but Christ on the cross was our sacrifice in atonement for our sins, once and for all.  And that in the Chaplet we are asking for God’s mercy “for the sake” of Jesus’ sorrowful passion.

Then I explained that God gives us mercy (letting us out of what we deserve… punishment for our sins), and then He gives us grace (what we don’t deserve) which is to be with Him in Heaven.  As Joe Beam says, “Not only does He not throw us into hell, but He’ll give us Heaven!”  Now THAT’S Good News!

The priest then said, “And it’s a gift from God.  You can’t earn it.”  I jumped in, “Remember how we’ve been talking about the two trees in the garden–how one is living with God and accepting what He’s done for us and the other is trying to do it on our own?  Mercy and grace are what He gives us when we’re living on the Tree of Life.  It’s nothing we do.  It’s a gift He gives us freely.”

At that point we were out of time, so we all stood together, joined hands and prayed the Our Father, right there in the front of church, with people coming in for Mass already.

Understand… NEVER would I have brought the kids into the big church sanctuary and had them sit on the floor.  God knew that, so He sent me someone who would.  And it was very cool and more right than I can ever even describe.

But I think that’s what all those landmark moments have taught me.  One-by-one, I get directional confirmation that I’m going in the right direction.  My spiritual landscape is no longer just vast paths and streets with nothing there.  Now there are moments and sights and sounds that I can remember and say, “Oh, yeah.  I’ve been here before.  Here’s something God and I built together.”  AND I can look out from where I’m standing and see those signs as well, so I’m no longer forced to walk around and around the same block sixteen times wondering where that lesson went that God taught me.

Now, I know right where to find them.

That’s just very cool to me, so I thought I would share it with you!

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