Thursday, July 30, 2009

Turning Off Magellan

How do you navigate your days? And do you struggle to pre-navigate?

One of the most popular gifts this past Christmas was navigation devices. You know—those little things that sit in your car and tell you how to drive. I already have one, but I’m thinking of getting another one for the times when Sarah isn’t with me. (Drum roll and cymbal, please.) Actually, my new cell phone comes with navigation. And it has an English accent, too, making it sound exotic. “In three kee-lom-mittuhs, tun-roight.”

It’s all the rage to get a Tom Tom, a Garmin, a Mio, or a Magellan—my favorite because the name makes me feel good. “No worries. Magellan is with me.” But I’ve noticed a hazard with all the navigational assistance we’re offered to get us where we’re going—the desire to pre-navigate. Do you know what I mean?

If you’re thinking of talking to someone with whom you’re a bit nervous, what do you do before the moment? Pre-navigate. A supposed road map is loaded up in your mind with all the possibilities you can foresee, and you imagine yourself responding to them. “Hello, Bob/Mary/Bill/Sue. I’m convinced that you should choose my product/agree to my terms/see that I’m right/go out to dinner with me for all the reasons I’ve given. Are we agreed?”

Does that make sense? You pre-navigate a situation in the hope that situation will go well, whatever “well” is. We all do it. But has pre-navigating kept you awake through the night? Has it dogged you through the day? Have you tried to turn off your personal pre-navigation device in the middle of the night, only to have it re-boot on its’ own? “Shut up, Magellan!” “Negative, Sir Ralph. I won’t be silenced. You must be prepared for every imaginable situation, and I’m here to conjure them up for you. Ponder, fret and mull over the following scenario . . . We've got all night together.”

Magellan navigated the oceans of the world. However, Magellan was killed by spear-wielding natives when he was 41!

Someone I know very, very well, recently received a gift from a law enforcement officer, following his insistence that she pull over to the side of the road. Not only is she now visited with fear during the driving moments of her day, but her inner Magellan now constantly offers imagined encounters which might happen in the future. “If a cop pulls you over because you didn’t signal/were going ten miles over the limit/made an unsafe lane change, here’s how to verbally navigate your way out of another ticket. . .”

This person I know very, very well, told me that just this morning while in the car, she yelled, “Shut up!” at her pre-navigator, henceforth dubbed Amelia. (Her navigational skills fell short, too. Amelia Earhart didn’t even make it to her forty-first birthday.)

Pre-navigating, we believe, is a way to avoid failure—and sometimes it is. However, it can also thrust God out of the picture by focusing upon you and what skills you have. And that’s not normal! It doesn’t work for us to have God anywhere but the center of the picture. When He’s not there, fully willing and fully capable, you’ll feel all alone in the ocean, subject to changing winds and tides.

Better get it together because the pressure’s on, navigator breath!

Sometimes we just have to pre-navigate, but always the best first choice is to know God. Since He’s living inside of you right now, there’s every likelihood that He wants to do something with you. You are His workmanship, so it’s a good bet He’d like something to work with!

Here’s what I do: I tell God that my navigational device is insufficient, and that I want to know what He thinks and feels about the situation up ahead. “Holy Spirit,” I might say, “What do you think about Bob/Mary/Bill/Sue? Do I have reason to worry? What do want me to know or feel about him/her/them?” And then I feel around a bit, listen or look into what I hear or feel next. I usually tell Him what my soul senses, my perceiver-expressor doing its’ thing.

Sometimes I feel caution. Sometimes I feel relief and peace. Sometimes I feel invigorated. Sometimes I see a picture or a scene in my mind that reveals something He wants me to know and is sure to comment on. Sometimes I get a scripture. Sometimes I hear something specific—“Go.” “Don’t go.” “Tell her this. . .” “Tell him that.” “Don’t say anything.” “This is what is really going on, Ralph.” “You are ready, for I have planned that you should talk with these people—fear not.”

In any case, I believe that God is in me. Because I am right now His vessel, He’s got a great place from which to impact a needy world, and to impart His grace and mercy and counsel and direction and love. If God is the Alpha and Omega, if He knows the very beginning to the very end before it happens, then He’s the perfect navigator.

I am confident that there will be plenty of adventures and mishaps and storms on our voyage, but I’ll be knowing and trusting the One who has no fear of the future. He’s with me and I’m with Him. He knows where we’re going.

I'm counting on that, and that’s how I'm turning off Magellan.


  1. Anonymous9:06 AM

    Good word brother. I do look forward to spending time with you one day.

  2. Anonymous9:06 AM

    Great! Thank you.

  3. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Great article Ralph you hit the target dead center. Grandpa Swartz

  4. Anonymous6:27 PM

    Those words came at a perfect time Ralph. God new and know what we need to hear at just the perfect time. Thank you Ralph and have a blessed day.

  5. Anonymous6:28 PM

    I loved that Ralph !! God knows just when we need to hear a message. Thank you !! Have a blessed day!

  6. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Ralph, wow, seriously good... I have struggled with what you've described here quite a bit actually... Being a stay-at-home-Dad especially, and having lots of time to let my thoughts wander, sometimes I will catch myself "prenavigating" conversations. It's sad, but sometimes I'll have whole discussions with someone in my head, and I might not have even talked to them in years...

    I want to learn to just rest in Him, and let Him lead me in the moment, instead of trying to assume that I can prepare myself for any eventuality, and have a ready response for every variable. Living that way is pretty much the opposite of Faith....


  7. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Very good word, Ralph...a reminder to constantly be seeking Him, depending on Him instead of our own vices. Really encouraging to hear how you hear & follow His leading/promptings/'s so true, I've never heard anyone really articulate it so well.
    Grace & Peace to you and your family