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Geography Lesson

February 3, 2011

Seventh grade geography came directly after lunch, and I yawned and daydreamed my way through an entire semester of imports and exports.  As an adult, I dearly wish I’d been more interested at the time, but my carb heavy, youthful brain didn’t care what countries the Rhine river passed through or that Africa was a continent not a country; so I doodled smiley faces up and down the side of my college rule, notebook paper instead of trying to place things on the map.

One day, however, the teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject of the day caused even me to sit up a little straighter and take notice.  He was holding an ordinary road map in his hand, and as he began to unfold it he said, “By the end of this week, every single one of you is going to know how…”

Silently I finished the sentence for him, “…to read a map.”

In a flash I was transported to last summer when  mom had shoved a map across the front seat of the station wagon and begged me to, “Hurry, figure out where we are and tell me where to turn.”  I’d stared at the squiggly lines representing roads and wondered how I was supposed to figure out where we were on the map. 

Mom reached over and stabbed at the middle of the page, “We’re here, we’re right here.”  I continued to stare in confusion.  Of course we ended up making a wrong turn, and mom eventually pulled off into a filling station and figured it out for herself.  She tried to show me where we were and how I could help her by telling her whether to turn left or right and when to make those turns, but I was hopeless. 

I blamed my inability on the fact that my fifth grade teacher had put the United States map on the south wall so that everything was backwards and that daily we traveled West on Interstate 405 South.  I-405 took a sharp turn west just a few miles before the end of its life, and that just so happened to be the stretch we drove every day.

Nobody else bought my excuses, and after the unfortunate event in the car with mom the previous summer, I could see the value of learning to read a road map.  I could do this.  If everyone else in the class could learn to read a map, so could I.  My brain reengaged, and I heard the teacher repeating.  “That’s right; every one of you is going to learn how to FOLD this thing properly.  There’s no reason for not learning to fold a map.” 

Daydreaming and doodling took over again.  I wasn’t interested in learning how to fold a map.  What good was a nicely folded map if I had no idea how to read the thing?

Today, I look at my beautiful, leather bound Bible – a gift from my parents when I turned 17.  A verse memorized many years ago comes to mind.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Ah yes, the Bible – it is our road map for life given to us by God Himself.

I pick up the Bible and hold it in my hand.  I admire the pretty burgundy cover.  A small part of me is sad because the gold gild of the pages has worn off, but wear on the pages was necessary in order for me to learn what was on those pages.  What a disappointment to God if we learn how to take care of the book but never learn to read it.

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