It is a well known fact that I am directionally challenged. I can’t read a map to save my life. For years, I thought that “north” meant “up.” This is particularly unnerving in light of the fact that the most compelling chapter in that best-selling, blockbuster (?) university textbook, Social Studies, All Day Every Day (by yours truly) is the one on geography :).
One time, years ago, (before Sugarman came to terms with the fact that I can’t be trusted to navigate) I almost got us killed in England, when I navigated us right up onto the pedestrian walkway at Cambridge University. Incensed students attacked our rental car, and we only lived to tell the tale because some bobbies came to our rescue, chastising us for failing to follow the law of their land. I tried to tell them about my directional-disability, but they were not interested.
So, it comes as no surprise that I spend a lot of time lost. However, I am not afraid! I just always leave early and expect to ask a lot of people a lot of directions. That brings me to my tale today.
Sugarman and I are in San Antonio, at an engineering conference (you an only imagine how interesting this is to me!). He is in meetings for 12 hours a day, so I make my own fun, and explore the city by myself, opting out of the “spouse-events” that are kind of iffy. This morning, I decided that I wanted to go to church. Often, when we are traveling, we take the opportunity to enjoy some beautiful cathedrals around the world. That was my intention today.
I looked up the location of the Cathedral of San Fernando, founded in 1731, and the oldest continuing functioning religious community in the State of Texas. The building has the added distinction of being the oldest standing church building in Texas, serving the Archdiocese of San Antonio for over 281 years. That was my plan.
I got dressed early and donned a pair of flat sandals (instead of the crazy heels that I have, for some reason, decided that I will wear to church these days). And, thank goodness for that! What was supposed to be a 5 minute walk (according to yahoo maps and directions on my computer), ended up to be almost an hour trek in the 100 degree sun (and about 99% humidity). I wandered through town, by the Courthouse, down by the jailhouse, past pawn shops and bail bond offices; finally pulling out my iPhone and punching in the location in my MapAp. But, as was stated earlier, I can’t really read a map. The blue dot was all over the place…I didn’t have a clue!
Fortunately, I know my shortcomings, and always leave very early (with a book in hand, in the unlikely event that I get where I’m going without trouble). At about 7 minutes before 11:00 (the published time for the service I was going to attend), I gave up. I re-entered the address of the cathedral in my iPhone, and saw that I had actually been walking AWAY from the cathedral for about 20 minutes. No way would I get over there in time (if ever, based on my navigational skills).
Well, about that time, I looked up and saw a sign stating, “additional church parking in the next block.” Being the genius that I am, I thought, “there must be a church around here somewhere – I’ll just go there!”. So, I walked another 1/2 block, and there it was. As I entered the doors of the beautiful old building, built almost two centuries ago, I heard the sounds of a saxophone, guitars, and drums. Walking into the sanctuary, I was greeted by a myriad of sights and sounds. The Praise team was practicing, congregants were dancing in the aisles, and the light was streaming through the lovely stained glass windows .
I took my seat, toward the front, so I could see the singers, and was greeted warmly by several different folks – all different ethnicities, all different stations in life…with one common bond.
As I waited for the service to begin, I read a flyer which described the mission of this inner-city congregation. The description read:
We serve and learn as brothers and sisters from all walks of life:
rich and poor,
housed and homeless,
gay and straight,
black and brown and white,
secular and sacred,
PhD and GED.
Our people seek to live and love as God does: passionately and unconditionally. God calls us on a journey forward, to break down the walls of prejudice and to embrace all our brothers and sisters.
I met and worshipped with people from all walks of life this morning. I wept as a 2 week old baby was baptized – surrounded by his “extended family” of people from the rehab group that supported his mother during her pregnancy. I met a recovering drug addict who danced throughout the service, infused with the sheer joy of what the Lord has done in his life. I talked to a successful couple of physicians who made their home in the downtown area. We sang, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,” as children from all those ethnicities walked the aisles to listen to the children’s sermon.
After an hour and a half service (yep…you read that right – an hour and a half!) I left the “accidental church” totally filled up and spiritually alive. Two baptisms, one conversion experience, a moving sermon, and rockin’ music left me deep in thought about many issues – the most important one being the totally inclusive, completely free, absolute love of God for His people – all of His people.
One of my favorite quotes (for obvious reasons) is, “All who wander are not lost” (J.R.R. Tolkien). While my journey to the cathedral didn’t end as I had planned, and I am very cognizant of my directional disability, I don’t believe that my final destination was a mistake. I think that the Lord guided me to the exact place that He wanted me this morning!
A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.
Proverbs 16: 9
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.