Last year NPR featured a story about a couple who had been reported missing after having set out to make their way through Nevada from their home in British Columbia. Explicitly following the turn by turn directions provided by the new GPS in their car, they soon found themselves literally in the middle of nowhere – where the wife remained, stuck and undiscovered, for seven weeks. Her husband had attempted to walk out of their predicament and, sadly, has yet to be found.
The news report went on to investigate what officials report is a fairly common occurrence. Another example was of a man who followed the voice commands issued by his GPS into the middle of Death Valley where he finally gave up looking for the road that it instructed him to turn onto. Turns out the road did exist – but hadn’t been used for almost seventy five years. It had become unpassable in the meantime – but nobody told the GPS that.
Another couple, thinking to shave a few minutes off their drive to the in-laws for dinner, followed directions carefully – until they got stuck in deep snow, having turned onto a minor road that hadn’t seen a snowplow since the beginning of the winter. Apparently, their computer was unaware of the limitation of their car in deep snow.
Now clearly, owners of GPS systems are responsible to evaluate the directions given against real world conditions. The programmers of the system can’t be responsible for impassable roads, or roads that no longer exist, or conditions that change making obedience hazardous. But you’d think somebody would take the people who usually use the systems into account – and perhaps do some research on what actually constitutes a road! Even maps have to be tested before being relied on.
It is bad enough if we just limit the conversation to getting from one place to another. But when people do life by GPS, it is catastrophic. I think that is why God has provided us with neither a map nor a GPS system when it comes to living. Instead, we have a guide – who knows us, who knows the road, who knows the destination, who knows the way. Who will get us home in time for dinner.