Column: Mapping out life

The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
Share this article

I realised the other day I have stopped using maps.

In years gone by I would happily spend hours poring over maps, especially in the run-up to holidays.

I would look for the unusual and plan interesting diversions. My favourite was in the USA where I spied a small town called Everittville only an hour off our route – I just had to build that into the tour!

My stairway is lined with copies of old maps, including some of Southern Africa showing the development of towns and roads over time.

But now I use a sat-nav. I put in my destination and it tells me how to get there and how long it is likely to take. No further or incidental information mind; it is as if only the destination and delays matter.

Sometimes this means I have no idea where I am in relation to anything else; questions like ‘what’s that hill?’ ‘How far away is such and such a place?’ all go unanswered. Instead of an interweaving of locations there is simply a start and a finish.

This was put into context when I looked at where I will be going to in Peru, to help build a school. Iquitos is the largest city in the world not connected by road to a network of roads. It has a population of 750,000 but you can only get there by air or water.

The sat-nav offers no routes from the capital, a map only shows the Amazon forest, the River Amazon and a road to neighbouring town.

I will be dependent on our local guide. He will be the one I must put my faith in and trust he takes us the best and safest way. There is no other information available to me, traditional or modern. :

This has helped me understand more clearly what Jesus meant when he said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

He was speaking in a world where there were no maps or sat-nav. There were established routes, some of which were very well trodden. When travelling to new places, a trusted guide, who knows the path and is someone you trust is essential.

For Christians, Jesus has gone the way before us and shares his knowledge with us. A personal guide is more than a sat-nav; and more informative even than a map. They bring all of whom they are, their connections and understanding.

As George VI said (quoting Minnie Louise Hawkins on the brink of the second world war): “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”