“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.” Philippians 1:12-13
Have you ever felt lost in your surroundings, knowing that you didn’t need to stay where you were but uncertain as to which way to go lest it take you further from where you need to be? In times like these, it’s nice to find a map with an indicator that proclaims: You Are Here! Suddenly, there is an aerial view of all that surrounds you and you can tell where everything is in relation to your location. It’s quite enlightening, this “view from above”. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have that same experience in our daily lives? Just think, each morning, while we prepared for the day, we could check our map and locate our new position; we’d scan the screen until we found the “You Are Here” icon. Then, all we’d have to do is look at what surrounds us and we’d be able to plan our maneuvers accordingly. We’d be able to see what’s to our left and to our right, what’s around the corner, and just how far we are from our favorite coffee shop! (Are maps made for any loftier purpose?) There’d be no time lost due to wrong turns and their counterpart…backtracking. We’d move with precision and speed and we’d never, not even once, make a wrongful turn! Oh my, in this technologically savvy world that we live in, why hasn’t someone thought of this?
Perhaps someone has. Correction, perhaps Someone has. As I was reading in Philippians, I came across a verse that, quite literally, is the equivalent of a “You Are Here” sign. It’s found in verse 13 where Paul writes, “…so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.” It’s as if Paul were circling over his situation, where he was in prison…and chains, and was able to see the surrounding landscape that enabled him to know: I Am Here. At such an altitude, Paul was able to not only see where he was, but why he was there. Now he could see the purpose, now he could see the profits, now he could see the pathway. And for Paul, it projected the small picture onto a larger screen.
It’s evident in the undercurrents his writing, “The whole imperial guard knows I am in chains for Christ! I have been placed in the epicenter of the Roman government where I am able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who wouldn’t have heard it otherwise!” Paul is ecstatic! He’s enthusiastic! He’s…he’s…exuberant about his placement and about his bondage because in it, because of it, he is able to fulfill the assignment God had given him to do. Up close, it might have looked hopeless, but from a distance it was heaven-sent. All he had to do was lift his eyes upward and take a step backward and scan the map for his “You Are Here” symbol; and he found it, and he rejoiced in it.
I don’t know about you, but I need God’s directory services just as Paul did. I too need to take a look upward and take a step backward and find out where I am in relation to what lies around me. It’s not enough to know where I am standing; I can look down and surmise my current location. But what’s important is how that location ties in to the surrounding landscape. Wherever I go, I only see in part and that can cause me to walk in circles. But, when I am allowed an aerial view…and locate my current status somewhere on the grid, that’s when I am able to see that everything is part of a greater picture and just as there was a pathway in, so too is there a pathway out.
I bet the children of Israel would have liked to have had this visual depiction. Then again, it might have made for an even grumpier group. Just think if they had been able to see on a map their “You Are Here” symbol and note their close proximity to Canaan. Surely they would have thought they’d arrive in a few weeks. But, after nearly a month of travel, they’d check their status again and find that not only were they not any closer, but they were actually further away! Now that could cause some dissension within the group. I can hear it now:
“Who’s in charge of directions? I knew I’d seen that rock before…see, I even wrote my name on it: Mur-Mur Ur was here! Two weeks of walking wasted; not only do we have to retrace our steps back, but once we get there we’ll just be back where we started…and that’s if we retrace our steps correctly! And…this is the fourth time this has happened in four months. At this rate, it’ll take us 4 years to get to the Promised Land!”
“I told them we should have gone left at the sign that read “Promised Land, Left Exit”, but I was told we didn’t need any back-hump drivers. Well, who’s looking at the backside of a camel now? Well, we all are except those out in front, but you know what I mean.”
The thing is, we can all get off course. We can all forget that where we are isn’t always as important as why we’re there. And, while a map icon can be helpful for giving us a big picture view of our general location, it can also be helpful in giving us an up-close picture of our specific location. Sometimes, like the children of Israel, we get turned around…and around…and around…and when we finally stop spinning, we’re miles…and months… from where we need to be. At times like these, it’s important to first check our “You Are Here” local position before taking a step back and a look up at our “You Are Here” aerial position. It’s foolish at best and fatal at worst to try to make our way through this life without checking both these positions on a continual basis. We need to know where we are and why we’re there so we don’t waste time going in the wrong direction or fail to find the joy in our current location. Sometimes, we need a “You Are Here” check to get us back on track.
So, how do we check these insightful yet invisible maps? After all, unless we live inside a mall, we don’t have one readily available to check each day. Well, it’s up to us to do the first scan. Before we can delight in the purpose of where we are, we first have to delve into the position of where we are. First, we’ll need to see how close our location indicator is to those places we always need to have in close proximity, no matter where we travel. Does our location find us close to the place where we have a quiet time with God? Are we within walking distance of godly friends who reprove and refresh us? Is our church, with its fellowship of believers, just around the corner? Can we get to each of these places in a matter of steps or are we blocks…or even miles…away? If we’ve drifted from these, then we’ll have to move in their direction before we can take a step back and a look up for our aerial view. The truth is, we need to align the where on our map before God will reveal the why of our map.
It’s all mapped out for us if we’ll simply stop long enough…and look high enough…to see beyond the bricks beneath our feet. Looking down doesn’t bring forth a revelation (though it might bring forth a penny), but looking up and out will do just that. It will enable us to get a clearer perspective of where we are and of what’s around us. Just as Paul saw his location in light of his destination and rejoiced in his situation, so we too can not only find solace but satisfaction right where we are. God has promised that He will complete that which He has begun (Phil. 1:6), so we needn’t be concerned when our “You Are Here” icon places us in the midst of a difficult area but delight in knowing that the very God who mapped out the universe is the very same God who mapped out our life!
So, where am I? Well, when I look around I see my open Bible, my godly friends, and my Spirit-filled church; when I step back and look up I see my placement according to God’s plan for the benefit of others and for the furtherance of His gospel. I see my location indicator: “You Are Here”…and it not only shows me where I am but it reminds me of Who is with me. For wherever I am, I can say with assurance, “God…You Are Here.”