It was a new-to-us botanic garden. Shaded pathways led through the foliage of South Africa and plants of New Zealand. Each curve brought curiously shaped leaves and vibrantly blooming flowers. I allowed the three older children, the oldest nine, to explore freely. After an hour of bamboo groves, manzanita habitat and all type of herbage that took me back to my childhood in Africa, it was time to make our way to the Children’s Garden. We had seen the sign from the parking lot, pointing down a hill. It couldn’t be too far.
My toddler clung to my pinky as my other hand pushed the stroller, my spine arched awkwardly to reach her level. “You guys can go ahead to the garden. Meet me there.” I was moving slowly. The oldest three were eager to bound ahead like Tiggers in the Wood. Off they went.
Five minutes later I arrived at the Children’s Garden, a terraced grove of paths, activity stations and water features. They would love this. . . if they were here. I put the toddler in the stroller and pushed swiftly along the zigzag path. Surely they should have arrived by now. The signs were clear on how to get here. They were all literate.
But they were not in the Children’s Garden. And now it had been ten minutes. I imagined an employee driving up in a golf cart. Excuse me, are you missing your children? They were looking for you. They are at the information desk.
What could I say? I told them to read the signs. It was pretty obvious.
As I exited the Children’s Garden under an arbor, all three boinged up joyfully, chattering. “We were running all over the place, just exploring, and then I remembered you said meet at the Children’s Garden. We didn’t know where that was, but we found the map and then we followed the signs.”
There were any number of things they could have done. They could have sat under the shade of a tree and wept, lost forever, in their minds. Could have found a garden employee and asked for assistance. Or ignored my instructions completely and simply continued to explore.
But for the map, with clear markings on how to get from where you are to where you need to be, where would they be?
We talk about maps. We show them maps. They take turns navigating with maps. They know how to use maps. This knowledge got them where they needed to go in order to walk in obedience to my instructions.
The Botanic Garden map would serve them fine to find their mom, but the map they really need to know, understand, study and not stray from is the Word of God. When challenges arise, when they appear lost, they will have many options. They can sit under the shade of a tree and weep, completely lost in their minds. They can call a trusted friend and ask for advice, which is not a bad idea. Or they can ignore the truth completely and press in to their own desires and longings.
Or they can pull out their map, with clear instructions on who they are, where they’ve come from and how to get where they need to go.
An accurate, physical map is invaluable, but useless unless opened and consulted along the way. As much as I like to teach my children about maps, the event at the botanic garden was a reminder that I need to continually, day by day, be training them in the useful handling of the map for life (2 Tim 3:16-17), the Bible.
What will if profit them if they become GIS gurus with incredible senses of direction who are continually situationally aware, able to visualize and intuit cardinal directions and understand detailed maps – but they lose their souls (Mark 8:36)?
From Psalm 119:
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules[a] of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
From Psalm 19:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,[c]
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.