A TripAdvisor for the Soul

A TripAdvisor for the Soul April 12, 2019

As I shared recently, my family and I took a trip to Ireland. We owe much of the goodness of that trip to one piece of guidance: TripAdvisor.

If you pressed me, I’d admit that my wife has an unhealthy connection to TripAdvisor. She has badges, people have listened to her advice, and we rarely take a trip without consulting “the Trip.”

However, one of the most surprising things we did while we were in Ireland was a day-long bus tour through the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin. We saw the place where the film Braveheart was filmed. We gazed over dark brown heather growing everywhere that would soon explode in purple.

The reason I mention this is because we wouldn’t normally take a bus tour.

We are more the plan it, walk it, control the circumstances kind of folk. However, once we read the reviews and the accounts of the vibrant tour guide we felt like the bus tour would be worth it. And indeed it was.

The point is that we wouldn’t have gone on this lovely bus ride, eaten Guinness stew in a pub built in 1740, without the guidance of those who had gone on the trip.

In the podcast I host we talk about wisdom quite a bit, and in a recent episode with author and pastor Aubrey Sampson she gave an incredible definition. It was not her definition, but her son’s who said, “Wisdom is the willingness to listen to other people.”

TripAdvisor is helpful when we listen to the guidance and experiences of others before we head out on the road.

There are times in my parenting, pastoring, marriage, and emotional life when I would appreciate a TripAdvisor review.

If someone could go ahead of me and tell me how it all turns out, it would be far easier to act with wisdom. However, such a thing doesn’t exist. It is the same with the spiritual journey.

God gives us grace, peace, and strength for crisis. He does not give us omniscience, because that would rip the foundations out of faith. But that leads me to a significant insight into our journey of becoming:

The journey of faith is a wonderful journey, made more significant by our willingness to seek guidance for that journey.

And honestly, TripAdvisor doesn’t operate with perfect wisdom either. Someone else’s “favorite meal ever” or “wonderful experience” could be your own personal stomach episode or disappointment.

That is why I know some folks say, “But that’s what the Bible is, right? Wisdom for living?” And I would give a hearty yes, but I’d also say it is wisdom for living YOUR life.

In other words, Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife has limited applications. It has to hit the reality of our own lives.

Guidance, from where ever we might find it, has to connect with the particular in’s and out’s of our life to bring the greatest value.

So even though we don’t have a “TripAdvisor for the human spiritual journey,” I’m finding one source of guidance that we can use to navigate our way forward.

Our memories give guidance.

In my most recent book, I talk about how memories make us who we are. Of course, this insight has a dark side and a light side. The dark side being that traumatic or painful memories change the course of our habits and behaviors. An experience of God as untrustworthy and capricious, for example, sets our faith journey on a path of legalism or abandonment.

The light side can emerge from the darkness, however. The moments of pain, suffering, and struggle become wisdom for us. The reason they become guidance is that there is nothing new under the sun. Challenges come around again.

Yet with the benefit of our memories to guide us, we know the basic details of the “beast” we are facing. We can respond with patience, perseverance, and grace.

As the aging Moses says to Israel in Deuteronomy, “I set before you today life and death. Choose life, so you can thrive.” (my paraphrase).

The only reason Moses can say this is that he has 40-plus years of experiencing death and life to guide him.

Through our memories God gives us signposts, marking the turns of the past so we don’t get lost in the present or future.

So when the Psalms give us memories of what it feels like to walk near the valley of death, we can know it when it comes again.

When Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me” we can mark our trail with bread and wine. We know that broken bodies and spirits will mend in the future.

When Revelation says “Every Babylon falls” we inherit the guidance to remain resilient because every oppressive power is on borrowed time. The God of the lamb, the thrones, the earthquakes and thunder has (literally possesses) all the time in the world.

My prayer is that your memories may become guidance for you. May they grow into a “TripAdvisor” for your present and future walking in the world. And, may it begin today.

(Photo by Gina Domenique on Unsplash)

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