Although I don’t have a GPS system in my car, I have been a passenger in cars that have one. When you deviate from the route the GPS plots our for your trip, you hear a mechanical female voice saying “recalibrating,” as the system plots a new route that takes account of your deviation.
My friend Chato used the image of the GPS system Wednesday in his talk on the Holy Spirit and the image has stuck with me as a wonderful expression of the way God works with us.
Some people think God has a fully formed plan for each of us and that our task is simply to implement that plan. Under that view, if we take a wrong turn, make any misstep along the way, we frustrate God’s plan for us. We’ve blown everything.
On the other side, when we find ourselves in a good situation, it is easy to look at the steps and turns that got us here and think how lucky that we made x choice instead of y or that we found ourselves in one particular situation rather than another. When I was on the adjunct staff of a retreat house in NY, where I absolutely loved ministering, I would sometimes think: what if I had gotten a job at a different school then St. John’s…then I wouldn’t have moved to Port Washington…then St. Ignatius retreat house wouldn’t have been on my path from work to home…then maybe I never would have gone there…and then maybe I wouldn’t have done the Spiritual Exercises and trained to be a spiritual director…etc. And I shake my head and think, how awful that would have been.
The thing is, it wouldn’t have been awful at all. if I hadn’t done any of those things, there would have been a recalibration. Some other series of choices would have opened up before me and God and I would have worked from there to discern my next steps. In that event, things would have turned out different. Not better or worse. Just different.
The GPS analogy reminds us that the Holy Spirit is always with us, recalibrating with us as we go along. Our life is not like a toy car running along a pre-made track with only only possible route. Each choice we make forecloses some possibilities and open up others. And that is all right, because at each step of the way, the Holy Spirit is with us helping us discern the right move from where we are on the path.