A Full Color Map: From the Editor
My brother and I have always loved maps. Yes, the navigational coordinates of a GPS can provide a point-by-point recommended route, but a map—especially the full-color paper ones still found at state welcome centers across the United States—offers a sweeping picture of the landscape and invites you to chart the course.
I am certain our affinity for maps and “road trips” came from our father, who loved geography and pored over rail lines, rivers, and destinations for the simple pleasure of discovery. The euphonious names “Lake Louise,” “Boothbay,” “Kalispell,” and even nearby “Travelers Rest” captured his imagination long before we visited them as a family.
We arrived at each destination by car because my father wanted to see the entire country town by town. Had my father been younger and not had a family when Peter Jenkins’s A Walk Across America was first released, my brother believes he would have made a similar journey. And so, with a Rand McNally Road Atlas in the glove compartment, we visited every state in the continental US except for Alaska as well as most of Canada.
I regret I didn’t keep a journal then but I have conversations and snapshots in my mind (and photos somewhere) of sunflowers in Saskatoon and snow in Denver—where my brother and I were wearing shorts because it was June. Cognitive science calls such memories “episodic”: recalling certain events and experiences along with the emotions, place, and time associated with them. Do you recollect a graduation, an elementary school teacher, or a fond destination and the feelings this memory evokes? Episodic and “semantic memory” (recalling facts and common knowledge) constitute part of our long-term memory known as “declarative memory,” which is what it sounds like: the ability to consciously recall and verbalize certain facts and events from the past.
“Seeing,” writes Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it. It is, as [John] Ruskin says, ‘not merely unnoticed, but in the full, clear sense of the word, unseen.’” Dillard continues, “If Tinker Mountain erupted, I’d be likely to notice. But if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present.”
The Scriptures suggest we need not only “a running description of the present” but also of the past and future if we are to navigate the terrain before us as faithful followers of God. When we pore over the sweeping landscape of his Word, we find more than landmarks for our journey. Indeed, we meet a God who invites his people to know Him intimately. His indwelling Spirit comforts us and gives us eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:16) that “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). We learn to trust his character and his ways because Jesus traverses the road with us, minute by minute and town by town, both before us and beside us.
As the articles in this issue suggest, God beckons us to notice his faithfulness when seemingly innocently “The fog comes on little cat feet,” in the words of Carl Sandburg, and we lose our way. And He tests our memory of his steadfast goodness and love when the road turns unexpectedly into the valley of the shadow of death or imprisonment.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Yet only a few verses later, God promises a procession of rejoicing will guide our way: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (verse 12). How wonderfully rich is the full-color map of our God!
This article appears in the 26.2 edition of our award-winning magazine, Just Thinking. Click the button below to download a PDF of this edition.