Updating the maps

Published 5:57 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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As I write this column, I am sitting inside my car in my driveway. Why I’m doing that may be a curiosity, but it won’t turn out to be the central notion by the time you read to the finish line. You see, I’m watching the progress of a disk as it updates the maps in my navigation system. Hang with me.

I have this 7-year-old car that I love. I bought it preowned when it was three. I’ll have it a good while longer. It came with a dashboard navigation screen. The maps are not satellite driven. They can be updated by disk. So once every few years, when they run a sale, it’s worth it to update them. Could I just use the Google maps or Waze apps on my mobile phone? You bet. We do that occasionally. But, I prefer the onboard system that I can glance at more safely and that talks readily through my sound system. 

So, here I sit. Any metaphor has its limits, beyond which it will break. But I’m pretty sure when it comes to life and my faith, those maps need to be updated too. 

Like anything else that we value, why do we need to update and grow in our faith? Why do we need to study and be discipled in our beliefs? Won’t our original teachings from childhood, or our salvation pledge, do? Life tells me otherwise.

I don’t know about you. But especially if you came to the faith as a child then you’re running a different version of life as an adult. Life had not tested my understanding of Jesus Christ and what he could offer when I came to accept my salvation. I not only trusted in God through Christ, I trusted in the adults who told me I needed to. 

Life has shown me that the version of faith that would run when I was a child won’t guide me through a more complex adult life. I thought I knew what challenge was when I was nine. But now I have seen that I had only sampled the highs and lows, the fears and hopes, of accumulated life at the time. No doubt, my faith will continue to be pushed and tested as I live. Pain and joy, perplexities and insights all affect how my life and beliefs intersect. 

Things I heard when I was newer in the faith, but had never questioned, have now been examined. One lifetime will not be enough to work out some of the deeper ponderings, disappointments and discoveries that following God has brought. Once I understood that faith in Jesus Christ was never intended to be about mere fire insurance, but rather a life of pilgrimage to become more like him, it all looked different. Each worship service, each study or mission experience, becomes an update of sorts. 

One time I experienced the limits of an outdated map system in my car. When I was new here, I needed to get over to a hospital in the Hampton Roads area. Someone tried to give me directions, but when you exceed three turns my mind loses everything you’ve just told me. I put in the address and took off. In a newer developed part of the city, I turned right and then took an immediate left just like the voice and maps told me. At my next turn, I could tell by looking that if I didn’t stop in about 75 yards, I was going to run into a newly constructed bridge support. The road had ended. 

Time and again, I have had a church member or friend knock at my office door. The look on their face, or the tone in their voice as they made the appointment, told me they were burdened. Many times, they are seeking counsel on a life matter where their unchallenged, lifelong beliefs of the faith have let them down. 

God may not change. Ever. The good news of Jesus Christ in our scriptures may not change. But we sure do. We change, our needs change and our lives take us to places we’ve never been. It all tests our faith, and my childhood version that was essentially uploaded, was all I could handle at the time. If I haven’t worked at growing my faith since then, life will run right over my stunted beliefs. So here I sit. Inspired anew in an odd sort of way, to work at my faith.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.