Jesus is (Sort-Of-Not-Really) My Copilot

Her iPhone has been leading us in circles around Bloomington Minnesota for the last ten minutes.

It keeps insisting that there are Caribou Coffee shops where there are, in fact, not. In a parking ramp, for example. Or in that eerily quiet strip-mall up the road.

“Where are you taking me?” I demand.

She responds by making fun of the country music I have playing softly on the radio.

I crank it up loud and sing along, because I believe that summer nights and twangy, earthy songs just kind of go together.

This is only our third real-life meeting. We met somewhere in all the blogging and the tweeting. In all those words flung like water across the internet, sinking down into the hearts of strangers.

I know that she will become a good friend by the way we laugh together, loud and shameless.

“OK,” she says, looking down at her useless phone again. “According to this, there should be a Caribou…in the middle of this intersection.”

“Geez,” I say, pulling another U-turn.

She leans back against the seat and laughs. “Don’t you wish that Jesus was your copilot right now?”

*

It’s a nice metaphor if, like me, you love a good road trip.

It’s even nicer when you flip it around so that God’s in the “driver’s seat” and “Jesus takes the wheel,” and you’re the one sitting in the sun-drenched passenger’s seat, window down, feet on the dash.

(I could see the whole country this way, the whole world if it were possible.)

When it comes to faith, I find that there are two different types of metaphor. There are the ones that illuminate, in some humble way, the great mystery of God. And then there are the ones that reduce the whole thing to one small, knowable element…like driving a car, with Jesus sipping gas-station coffee right next to you.

You can see how it happens, because, as Orson Scott Card has said, metaphors are about “holding the most truth in the least space.” At their best, they are small waterways that lead us to the ocean of God’s love. At their worst, they are bumper stickers.

After all, faith is not really a fast car, cutting through the world. (Air conditioning and speakers and half-eaten bag of Gardetto’s crumpled up in the front seat.) At least it shouldn’t be. The Bible is not a road-map that shows you exactly which route to choose, exactly which turns to take. When we pretend it is, we cheapen the hard beauty of it.

Life is a wilderness and a city and a dark jungle all at once, and there is no air conditioned car involved. You are walking and you are wandering and sometimes you stop dead in your tracks and beg, “God, show me which way.” And sometimes he just does not.

He says, I am the way. And then he sits down against a tree and waits for you to figure it out.

I know what it’s like to flip your Bible open to a random page in desperation for some sort of direction. Lord, show me the answer. And it is almost never pertinent, never that fluorescent, blinking arrow of a Bible verse that you wanted when you prayed.

And it’s not turn-by-turn directions, but a small, bright light. It is illuminating your tired feet beneath you, throwing some relief onto the path that you find yourself lost on.

The goal of this thing is not getting there safe, getting there quick, taking the simplest route. It’s not really getting there at all, because, if we are moving in the love of Christ, then we are already there. Each leg of this journey is its own destination.

The beauty of all this lostness lies in the fact that we are never really lost, not to him who sees us. Not to him who knows every stone of this, every tree and building, every dark alley, every resting place.

His love is the map, his way is our way.

We just have to pick ourselves up and keep moving.

39 thoughts on “Jesus is (Sort-Of-Not-Really) My Copilot

  1. Yes, yes, yes. I don’t even know where to begin with my response. Just know I needed this reminder today.

    Also, so happy you got to spend time with Kim! I’m really hoping I can make my way up to hang out with you friends sometime this next year.

  2. It really is about the journey…. We need to concentrate on it; not so much on the destination…. It is the journey where we spend most of our time, it is the journey where things get tangled up and then figured out, it is the journey where the heartache and the unbridled joy reside, it is the journey where you meet your fears and where you conquer them, It is the journey where you wish you could disappear so no one would see you but you are not allowed, it is the journey where your faults and your gifts emerge; where you find your friends and foes, where you grow up or throw up, where the most meaningful things in life are found; it is the journey.

  3. Oh my word YES. It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable in this, because it goes against my Midwestern work ethic. The GOAL is the prize, not the journey. Who am I to marry? What career should I choose? Where should I live? I need answers to put on my list so I can move on to the next thing.

    Then God says: Abide in me. And there’s no checkbox for that, there’s no end date. It’s a lot harder because it’s all about grace, which isn’t something I can get with hard work and common sense.

    But it’s GOOD. It’s ohsogood.

    1. I struggle with it too, Kelly, that “what now?” “what’s next?” mentality. Abide. Such a great word.

  4. Oh I loved this one. Beautiful quote from Card, and I’m so relieved to see someone talk about “the journey” in a way that’s more complicated and darker than these lines like to admit.

  5. “His love is the map, his way is our way.” I always want to say similar things when people seem to just be ‘waiting on God’ before they figure out what move they’re going to make. If you don’t know, just start doing what Jesus did until you figure it out.

    1. Yes. Granted there are times when you really do feel stuck…I’m in one of those places now, needing to make a decision yet so fuzzy on what it should be. But you’re right — there is an activeness about faith-filled waiting.

      1. Oh oops, I should clarify, haha. I was thinking about a passive stuckness, not something you’re thinking about and are aware of. I had my 25 yo BIL in mind….just hanging out at home with the parents, sort of checked out of life, playing video games, until he hears from God on what he should do with his life. There is probably more than one way to be stuck, and some of it is probably healthy. I’ve been there too. Not meaning to imply you’re like my slacker BIL, LOL.

        1. Ha. Apologies not necessary. I figured you were referring to something like that. 🙂 Yes, in that case, time to un-stuck yourself, man.

  6. At first, I was laughing as I remembered taking you all over the southern suburbs (because let’s be honest — I am hilarious). Then I was crying at this: “You are walking and you are wandering and sometimes you stop dead in your tracks and beg, “God, show me which way.” And sometimes he just does not.
    He says, I am the way. And then he sits down against a tree and waits for you to figure it out.”

    I just knew you would make something beautiful of this one, Addie. Just let me know when I can lead you astray again. 😉 xo

  7. ‘The goal of this thing is not getting there safe, getting there quick, taking the simplest route. It’s not really getting there at all, because, if we are moving in the love of Christ, then we are already there. Each leg of this journey is its own destination.

    The beauty of all this lostness lies in the fact that we are never really lost, not to him who sees us. Not to him who knows every stone of this, every tree and building, every dark alley, every resting place.’

    Beautiful. The more I learn this and actually BELIEVE this, the more I can breathe. Thank you Addie, as always.

  8. OK, you caught me three days after preaching on the book of Joel. I know this isn’t a theology blog, but…dang it, the most encouraging, securing, peace-giving thing I can do is to say that this particular cliche is the Oscar-winning worst of all time (echo, echo, echo).
    Co-pilot = “At worst it is a bumper sticker.”
    Co-pilot = ultimate narcissism
    More accurately, at worst it is heresy, blasphemy, and the practical equivalent to (oh what human metaphor can I use that will fall supremely short?) saying to Queen Elizabeth, “Hey babe.” Or to any president, “Dude, you should tell me which muffin to eat at La Quinta tomorrow morning.”
    The sooner we get your best statement: “I AM the way,” the fullness of it, the likelier we will be able to kick up our feet on the dashboard of the bucket seat on the right. You get to close your eyes over there, and let the wind blow in your hair over there. Because only I AM can and is driving, we are not searching for a way, or even “the” way, because the way isn’t something you can ask Siri, it is a person. It is Him. HE is the way. Not, “the way is found by asking Him for direction.” No, HE (are we getting this?), HE is the destination, yes, and the journey. And our rest is found when we stop searching for another way, because we already found HIM!

    1. Thanks for this expansion, Neal. You’re right, it’s worse than a bumper sticker and I appreciate the way that you explained that. I loved this part especially: “HE is the destination, yes, and the journey.” Perfect.

  9. Oh yes, this is what I needed to read today.

    I agree that summer should be filled with twangy country music; however, every time, Jesus Take the Wheel, comes on…my husband always comments how that really bad advice. HOLD ON TO THE WHEEL. I think it is poor advice for us spiritually too. When life goes to hell, we can blame it on Jesus who piloted/took the wheel whatever. It doesn’t fall on us. Love this, Addie.

    1. Thanks so much Sarah. I so resonate with this statement: “When life goes to hell, we can blame it on Jesus, who piloted/took the wheel whatever.” I’ve always felt that way about the phrase “I’m feeling led.” Like, “Hey, not my fault! God is making me!”

  10. I LOVE this.

    I think you’ve exposed exactly why these metaphors are so seductive – because our minds are picture galleries and we need to guard against the middle-class western-world easy-road pictures of God that we put in them. Life and faith is not an air-conditioned sedan but a dusty road. LOVE it.

    1. I agree: they are seductive…and REDUCTIVE. I don’t really want to serve a God who would be happy just sitting in the car with me, giving me the turn-by-turn directions. Boring.

  11. We ask God to show us the way, and sometimes he just doesn’t. So powerful, and so true. And in those moments we can choose to feel abandoned by God, or we can recognize that the time has come to trust ourselves, that in doing everything we humanly know to do to cultivate a relationship with God, we ARE going the right way and, like you said, just need to figure some things out on our own.

    Wonderful…thank you!

    1. Yes. I agree. I think that we’ve inadvertently created this faith culture where you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you don’t get some kind of clear answer, some direction. You should be praying harder. Doing something better. Different. Whatever. I think we’ve so missed the boat there. Thanks Alizabeth.

  12. I always thought of God as mOre of a hitchhiker. Not really taking us anywhere but goin with us wherever we go…

  13. “The beauty of all this lostness lies in the fact that we are never really lost, not to him who sees us.”

    This will be written out somewhere for me to find again. It’s something I needed to read this week, this year. This post is just right, Addie.

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