The Innate Problem with a Great Map

by: Rev. Ed Schneider

1 Samuel 24:8-11

Soon, David also got up and left the cave. “Your Majesty!” he shouted from a distance. Saul turned around to look. David bowed down very low and said: Your Majesty, why do you listen to people who say that I’m trying to harm you? You can see for yourself that the LORD gave me the chance to catch you in the cave today. Some of my men wanted to kill you, but I wouldn’t let them do it. I told them, “I will not harm the LORD’s chosen king!”

There are few things in this world more frustrating to me than to witness a person proceeding along a particularly destructive path. It’s frustrating because these hopelessly misdirected individuals could, if they had the right information and guidance, significantly begin to extricate themselves from their circumstances if only they were not blinded and paralyzed by an overwhelming sense of denial.

Over and over again I see person after person who begin life with such great promise and through a series of bad choices, or unfortunate circumstances, or paralyzing fear, or just plain laziness have found themselves in an utter mess. Some of these folks remind me of a person standing in the middle of a railroad track and for some reason refuse to look up to see the train coming directly toward them. You would think that it wouldn’t be difficult to see a large, loud, and fast moving train barreling down upon you and yet people as well as organizations refuse to see “the train” coming every day.

Being honest concerning one’s actual circumstance is an essential element when trying to discover which proverbial road a person ought to be traveling. By that I mean, there is little opportunity to find a successful outcome, regardless of how big or small the goal may be, unless or until you can truthfully determine at what point you are beginning a journey. The same can be said about the Christian journey. Before any person can actualize any opportunity for participation within the process spiritual discovery and the subsequent stages of growth thereafter, they must formulate an understanding of the importance of blatant honesty of where they find themselves throughout the entire journey. This is a reality of the Christian life.

All Right…I’m going to put into your hands a fantastic map and on this map there is a famous city you have always wanted to visit and it is clearly depicted. The publisher of the map even went so far as to include a big red arrow pointing to this splendid place….this place of your dreams…the place you have been longing to go and spend an extended period of time investigating and enjoying.

As you start to look at the map you notice other details starting to emerge. Tourist attractions and historical notations abound throughout the map as well as subtle shading of colors to simulate depth and terrain. Folks, this is one GREAT map.

Here’s the innate challenge with the scene I have presented. You, the reader and interpreter of the map, have no idea where you are in relationship to the map itself. The opportunity to have a successful journey begins with the knowledge of your actual starting point. Conversely, without definitively knowing your actual starting-point, without knowing where North, South, East or West may be, then the best map in the world becomes useless to you.

  • What good is it to decide where you want to go if you can’t find yourself on the map?
  • What good is it to be aware of directional choices without a starting point?

The obvious answer is it doesn’t do you or anyone else any good at all. The same can be said about the choices many of us make, or don’t make, every day of our lives.

I have been a pastor, preacher, teacher, and organizational consultant the vast majority of my adult life. Unfortunately, far too often I have also been presented with circumstances that have been so extreme in their negative realities I have stood in awe, saying to myself, “How could it have gotten this messed up?” Unfortunately, I have been witnessed to human beings who seemingly have their mental faculties intact do the things they conscientiously know will hurt, harm, or severely hinder either themselves or the organization they represent. What is so troublesome in these observations are so many of these individuals seemingly are outwardly aware of the reality of their plight? Yet, they continue to stumble when it isn’t necessary.

I am absolutely sure I can’t be the only one who has looked on in both confusion and amazement when a particular organization or an individual continues to follow a path already proven to be faulty or failing and then later acts surprised when it collapses under the weight of their own denial. There isn’t one caring…much less competent…pastor, evangelist, or counselor who doesn’t know the innate challenge of leading an individual into the harsh light of personal honesty. This difficult journey of personal discovery is caused by the uncomfortable yet required process of introspective honesty. Even though this “gut-wrenching” process can be remarkably challenging, it can, if genuinely employed, lead to an actual transformation of how a person views their very existence.

When any journey of discovery is charted and completed the person who has successfully maneuvered through it will be guaranteed to legitimately claim the distinction of a victory over the emotional mine-field of crippling denial. In addition, when anyone is enabled to move beyond the effects of emotional dishonesty, something remarkable happens. They become empowered to vanquish the future clouds of human denial. Their understanding regarding the value of life… even its very definition… has forever been altered. Because of this new and different reality, the person now experiences and understands life in completely different terms. They are now able to positively redirect and sustain tangible results which could quite easily be labeled a “divinely inspired” miracle.

Anyone charged with helping another person find a new path of thinking and a new way of understanding life itself is constantly searching for more effective means and methods to gently prod and coax a “troubled soul” into the commitment of a corrective action. While trying to facilitate positive movement you will always have to accept the unfortunate reality within each new road of personal discovery traveled, “denial” will be lurking ready to pounce at any time.

The reason for this circumstance is grounded within each person’s very real need to protect themselves from perceived danger or harm. This need to emotionally protect yourself is perfectly natural and because of this human trait it becomes harder and harder to open the door of personal discovery without confronting your own fears of “seeing yourself” as you really are.

Let me share with you what I believe is a good example of how personal honesty, when used correctly, can not only make a positive difference but also provide a complete turn-around in how one may experience life itself.

In the 24th Chapter of 1 Samuel, it tells of King Saul, who came to believe David was plotting to kill him. As a result of this belief he and group of soldiers began chasing David and his band of warriors with the hope of catching and killing them. While tracking David, King Saul rested his troops at the mouth of a cave. Unknown to him, David and his men were in the back of the cave hiding. Saul, who was completely unaware of their presence inside the cave, went inside to perform a bodily function. This left him obviously vulnerable to attack from David and his men. If David would have just focused himself on hiding or even killing his enemy from then no opportunity to correct the eventual outcome would have been possible. Just like David, all Christians are challenged to look at the reality of current circumstances in a different light. We cannot assume failure. We cannot assume despair. Just like David, we need to search out ways that may be new or different even innovative to solve our personal or organizational plight. I am absolutely positive one of the foundational realities confronting each person involved within the challenging journey of Christianity involves a simple , yet powerful phrase — personal honesty.

Just like David, we ought to take immediate stock of our actual situations. Just like David, we need to stop hiding in a cave and face our fears. Just like David, we should stand on the belief that life’s current circumstances don’t have to rule the rest of our life. Just like David, we should take seriously the goal of finding the greatness in life by leaving behind the things that cause failure and fear. Just like David, we need to be honest enough to take a hard look at our actual life and then commit to do whatever it takes to find the blessings that God has before us.

Beloved, just like David, we should stop settling for a dreary cave of an existence and trust God enough to actively participate in revitalizing and redirecting the path of life we choose to follow. Please remember that if any of us have a few breaths left to take, we have another opportunity to transform a life of trivial survival into a glorious testimony of God’s grace in action. If you are willing God can and will enable you to soar beyond and above the current circumstances of your life.

Your history does not have to be your future if you are willing to honestly reflect on where you actually are and then, like David, step out of the cave you have been hiding in and allow God to empower you to take charge of your future. It has happened already in millions of lives who have trusted there is a way out of no way. It continues to happen today each time someone is willing to look beyond “the now” and concentrate on the Divine promises of God’s immeasurable grace.

This tender yet solid foundation of grace is completely able to provide for your emotional “safety-net” that enables you to find where you actually are on the greatest map ever produced. Once God’s grace has carried you to your starting point you will then be enabled to clearly head toward the goal of arriving safely at that splendid city you have determined is your ultimate goal. This city is God’s kingdom where every child of God can be guaranteed The Creator’s love, inclusion, and ultimate empowerment beyond the earthly limitations you may be currently experiencing.

To get to this point of the Christian “faith journey” you will have to awaken to a belief that is so firmly grounded in what you have determined to be a foundational truth that little could ever be done to shake or alter your confidence of that proclaimed understanding. The unfortunate reality of this scenario is finding an ultimate, rock solid, and unalterable truth is no easy journey, yet in some way every one of us are called to each travel this road of personal discovery. The question becomes, “How can we know the way to go in our attempt to find the truth?”

Thomas said,

“Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?” Jesus then answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! Without me, no one can go to the Father. If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.” (John 14:5-7)


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