God allows wandering, but always knows how to get us back home

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By Nancy Kennedy

For Christmas my husband bought me a GPS device for my car.

I am notorious for my directional dyslexia, which I blame on my dad. When I was a kid he told me to get lost and, ever the obedient child, I’ve been doing so ever since.

I don’t understand north. I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but I couldn’t point it out to you. Orlando and Tampa are both south of where I live, but they feel northish to me.

Most of the time I can get someplace with written detailed directions (“Turn right at this street then go to the third house on the left.”) However, I can’t reverse it without intense, step-by-step thought. Even then I almost always make at least one wrong turn.

So, when my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas I told him to “geta geta geta Garmin” (although my device is a Mio).

I was elated to open it. Now when someone tells me to get lost I can say, “Um, can’t do that anymore.”

On Sunday we took it for a test drive to see how it works.

First, you program the type of voice you want giving you verbal directions, either female (“Samantha”) or male (“Tom”). Since women’s voices get awfully naggy, like the one at the self-checkout at Wal-Mart, we chose Tom, although I’d much prefer Sean Connery’s voice giving me directions.

Next, you can program into the gadget the address where you want to go and it’ll calculate the route. We told Tom we wanted to go to Brooksville from our house in Inverness.

We’ve been to Brooksville hundreds of times and know the way, but wanted to see what Tom would do. Tom bypassed our usual route.

Not a problem — we just went our usual way. However, Tom didn’t like that and told us to make a U-turn. He wanted us to take U.S. 41.

However, we didn’t want to make a U-turn. We wanted to go down Howell Street, past the old houses and the high school. That’s when Tom realized we were bent on going our own way and recalculated the route to include our detour down Howell.

In a way it defeats the purpose of the GPS device, at least for me. I don’t need something that enables my propensity for straying. However, Tom makes sure I eventually arrive at my destination. It’s a lot like the grace of God that allows wandering but never lets us go too far — and always brings us home safely.

Of course, with Tom you don’t have to program in a route. You can just plug him in and he’ll show you a map of the street you’re on, complete with nearby restaurants, banks, stores, etc. Tom will also show upcoming streets, show you your speed and what direction you’re heading.

Hallelujah! I now know where north is without relying on my feelings (which are usually wrong). Just because I think I’m going the right way doesn’t mean I am.

Frankly, I am in awe of people who understand direction. I hate that I don’t. I hate the feeling of being lost.

Once I drove an hour on I-24 in Tennessee thinking I was heading to Clarksville, but ended up 48 miles south of Nashville in Beechgrove, Tenn.

I panicked. I was angry. I was lost and frustrated. I’d wasted two hours travel time and it was late and I don’t like driving in the dark. I was away from home in a strange place, and I was scared.

I ended up stopping at a hotel for the night and waiting until morning to drive to Clarksville.

The truth is, when I don’t know where I’m going or how to get there I’m apt to panic and drive anywhere, around in circles or down a dead-end road or run out of gas.

That’s why I need a guide, a voice, a Spirit, pointing me in the right direction.

That’s why I rely on the scripture that promises, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left …  your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).

Hooray! I’ll never be lost again.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.