Way Off Base

Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.     Isaiah 32:9
2 16 15 039     I volunteered to chaperon Mason’s third grade field trip last week.  All the other chaperoning parents for his class rode the bus with the students.  Having to get home for Jocelyn right after, I took my own car.
     I have been to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center a few times over the years.  But having a tendency to get lost just going across town, I quickly googled the address that morning and wrote it on the palm of my hand in pen.  However, several hand washings later, the street address wasn’t all that clear.  I inputted what I thought was written on my hand into my GPS before pulling out of the school parking lot behind the buses.
     Always in a hurry and driving fast, I quickly got bored following behind the extremely slow school buses.  Consequently, once on the highway, I pulled into the fast lane and zoomed off, confident that my GPS would lead me to where I needed to go.
     I exited the highway where my Garmin told me to.  Although things didn’t look at all familiar, I had more confidence in my GPS than I did in my own recollections.  But when I arrived at my destination, 2 Industrial Drive in Concord, NH, with no Discovery Center in sight, it became very evident that I was lost.  I pulled up to a man in a pick-up truck and asked him where the Discovery Center was.  He shook his head and answered, “Oh… WOW!… You’re way off base…  That’s on the whole other side of the city… Hmmm… Let me think for a minute how to direct you there…”  

     That response scared me.  If getting back on course was going to be that complicated, it was a guarantee I was going to get lost eight more times following this guy’s directions.  If I were lucky, I’d probably arrive just as the field trip was ending, if I ever arrived at all!  How utterly irresponsible of me, and oh how humiliating.  I politely thanked him, and said that I would call my husband instead.
     Then I made the frantic emergency call to my husband’s work phone, praying he wasn’t on a sales call and could pick up right away.  When he did answer quickly, I yelled “Help!” and explained my predicament.  He googled the Discovery Center and told me that the address was 2 Institute Drive, not Industrial Drive.  I looked down at my hand; sure enough, he was right.  Although the ink had faded, had I truly paid attention to what was written there, I would have seen Institute Drive, not Industrial.
     Driving directions aren’t the only thing I don’t give my full attention to.  When I feel God prompting me to do something, or say something, I quickly jump to action and zoom off.  It’s not until I’ve screwed things up that I pause long enough to determine that I’ve only half paid attention to His directions.
     When God has an assignment for us, it matters.  That’s why this passage reads like it does.  It doesn’t say, “Listen and hear my voice, then run off and do.”  No.  As a way to grab our attention and hold it long enough to get His message right, it repeats, “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.”  Similar to when I say to my kids, “Listen to me with your eyes, ears and whole body,” this is God’s way of saying “Listen to me with your eyes, ears and whole heart.”  When I do, I arrive where I’m supposed to be, at the right time, ready for my assignment.  When I don’t, I end up late and in the wrong place, way off base.  That’s when I make the frantic emergency call to God, pleading for Him to help me out of whatever mess I have made of things.  Fortunately, He never points out that if I had listened well the first time, there’d be no reason for the distress call in the first place.  But after all these years of placing those calls, I’m catching on to that fact myself.  I need to pay more attention.
     Sure enough, that pick-up truck driver was right.  Institute Drive was on the entire other side of the city, with a gazillion red lights and intense road construction in between.  But God is a miracle maker in big things, and in small.  After that white-knuckled drive across the city, with some pretty colorful profanities sprinkled at each and every red light, I arrived at Institute Drive as the kids were huddled in the lobby getting their orientation to the Discovery Center.  When Mason saw me, he threw his arms around me, and we spent a wonderful couple of hours exploring with his friends.
     Although it all ended well, you can bet your bottom dollar that the next time I volunteer, or before I take action on God’s next assignment for me, I will be paying very close attention to the directions, listening with my eyes, ears, and whole heart.
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