I had been in Spain for three days, and had not ventured out of the house except to go to class, and when my host family showed me around the city. I’ve had a horrible sense of direction all my life, and by this time I’d been lost so many times it didn’t really scare me anymore – in America. But there was something about the narrow, twisty streets, the lack of street signs, and the lack of people who spoke my language, that made getting lost in Spain different. I was less inclined to wander out on my own.
But on this third evening, I had to meet the other American students in the center of the city for a cultural excursion. My host mom drew the route on the map, and walked me there, pointing out landmarks as we went. It was about a half hour walk from their apartment. When we found my group, she left me with this advice, “If you get lost, just keep walking downhill. You’ll find us eventually.” Right, so no worries.
Of course, I did get lost walking home. It took me a while to even realize I was completely off track. At first all the cobbled streets tight with tiny shops and scattered with beautiful churches and cathedrals all looked the same to me. By the time I realized I was lost, I could hardly even find my way back to the beginning, and just as if I was in the movies, the sky turned dark and it began to pour. It took me almost two hours to get home, by which time I was soaking wet. But after that, I had a much better understanding of the layout of the city, and I knew they were right – I would find my way home eventually. I wasn’t afraid of getting lost in Spain anymore.
Getting lost has always been part of my life, and always will be. Getting lost can even be fun sometimes. I met one of my best friends when we got lost together at fifth grade camp. I got lost many more times in Spain, and sometimes it was horrible. Once I got lost with a good friend when we were visiting a city far away, and she was dehydrated and vomiting and we needed to get back to the hotel – it was not a good time to be lost. Once I led another friend an hours walk out of the way because she trusted me to know where I was going, and I didn’t.
If you get lost a lot too, you know the feeling. Overwhelmed, frustrated, slightly panicked. Sometimes you can see the humor in it. Sometimes you feel the reassurance deep down that you will find your way eventually. But sometimes all you know is that you’re lost, and its not alright.
Careers, college, relationships, faith – we’re so privileged with many choices in our society and so pressured to choose the right direction. To an extent, we can choose where to live, what to study, how to earn a living, what to believe, who to make friends with, who to date, who to marry. What if I make the wrong choices? How should I know what direction to choose when I can’t even find the way to the grocery store without getting lost? There’s too many paths before me and none of them look familiar. I’m lost.
And some things I don’t get to choose. The behavior and feelings of people I love. The way God is so complex and mysterious. The way life pulls in so many different directions. Sickness, accidents, tragedies and blessings. Sometimes so much complicated life is swirling around me that I can’t figure out how to move or where to go. I’m lost.
I prayed about this a lot over the past year – asking God for direction. So far, I haven’t noticed any signposts pointing me on the right path. But I have realized this: getting lost has always been part of my life and always will be. Of course I won’t always choose the path that will lead to perfect happiness and fulfillment. I haven’t always, but life always goes on with all its ups and downs. I’m not going to be like I was those first days in Spain – stuck inside because I’m so intimidated by those narrow, twisty streets. I still panic sometimes when I feel lost – I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed. But I know sometimes here’s humor in it. And I know sometimes it will be just a good story later. And I know always, underneath everything else, there is the reassurance that someone knows where I am. Like the Psalms say:
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide, your right hand will hold me fast.” –Psalm 139:10
– Yours Sincerely