That is except for me.
If there is a wrong turn, I will take it.
If there is a wrong lane to be in, I will likely be in it.
If that is my exit up ahead, I most surely will miss it.
And if you tell me to go north, I will likely head south.
Hand me a map, and my eyes quickly glaze over – as if I am reading Greek. And even with three years of seminary, Greek is still Greek to me.
Getting lost is what I am good at.
Getting lost is what I am very good at.
With the ink barely dry on my driver’s license, coming home from a high school hullabaloo, I drove round and round Chevy Chase Circle more times than I could count. Enter on Connecticut Avenue. Exit on Connecticut Avenue. Simple, right? But the street signs – tucked behind the leafy trees – were out of sight. So round and round I would go, literally going nowhere. Lost in my own personal Twilight Zone.
The state of Maryland probably should have revoked my driver’s license there and then – way back in 1972. Better if the DMV had given me a permanent pass to sit in the passenger seat. Better for me to buckle up in the backseat and let someone else – virtually anybody else — slide into the driver’s seat.
But this Immaculata Prepster was not about to admit defeat. My driving sadly though did not ever much improve, but I did prove to get better and better at getting lost.
Driving my friend, Nancy to the hip new coffee shop at Politics & Prose, we ended up instead eating our lunch at the counter of a dark and dingy Dart Drug.
Driving my friend, Pam to do some Fair Trade shopping at Mission Traders in DC, we crisscrossed all four quadrants at least forty times, trying to find it. We eventually gave up having traded nothing.
Chauffeuring my kids — in my minivan days — to soccer practice and piano lessons, I could get lost in my own backyard. Flustered and confused behind the wheel of my car, I frequently invoked the little trinity, the holy three: “JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH!”
And from the backseat, my children would respond: “Mom, do you have any idea where we are? Are we lost?”
“Yes, we are lost. “ I would admit. “Again.”
I am so good at getting lost that I count on it. Going someplace familiar I can get lost at least once. Going someplace brand new, I count on getting lost at least twice. Even with Google Maps in the palm of my hand, I can be at sea.
One dark and rainy morning last March, I walked at least half a mile to go three blocks. Even with SIRI giving me step-by-step directions, I still had to stop and ask a cop which way to go — right here in my own hometown, Washington, DC.
Pierre L’Enfant planned it otherwise, of course. There is no other city that has such a logical layout as does DC: numbered streets; alphabetical avenues; one, two, three syllable street names; four quadrants on the compass. Northeast. Northwest. Southeast. Southwest.
Makes no difference. I still don’t know where the hell I am.
Now when you are in a hurry, getting lost is a luxury you can ill afford.
But if you have the time, getting lost has it’s own rewards.
And once upon a time, a long time ago, when I fell from grace at Holy Cross, I lost my way. I lost my mind. I lost my profession. I lost my job. I lost my soul. I lost myself.
Lot’s of people who loved me wanted to give me directions. But all of it was Greek to me.
You see, I had to wander in my own crazy wilderness. I had to get lost in my own bipolar backyard. I had to explore my own great unknown. I had to draw my very own manic map…for the very first time. I had to navigate my own way back.
I had to get thoroughly lost so that I could be found.
And now getting lost is a luxury I luxuriate in.
And so this week, I wandered all over kingdom come, the kingdom come of DC. I followed the flow of the traffic lights downtown to Chinatown, uptown to Metro Center, meandered over to the Mall, then climbed up Capitol Hill, ending up at the Eastern Market.
Mingling with the tourists and inhaling bus fumes at the crosswalk, I nosily leaned in to listen in on other people’s lives. And so I caught this snatch of a most interesting conversation:
“Shall we go to Russia or France or Iowa?” the woman asks her daughter as she passes me by on the sidewalk.
“Iowa,” the little girl answers, “Let’s go to Iowa.”
It was not the answer I was expecting. But it is an answer that I love.
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”
And the idea of getting lost in Iowa sounds weirdly and wildly wonderful to me.
The fact is that no matter where you are, you can get to anywhere from there. There are a million ways to get there. Even better, there are a million ways to get lost along your way.
If you lose yourself where you least expect it, you may find yourself in places you likely could never have imagined – in situations never foreseen – with people you never knew were out there.
Scary and exciting, this is how with God all things are possible.
So turn off your GPS and let the Spirit be your guide. And if you need some directions, just ask Joani, she is very good at getting lost!