September 13, 2006

Going Afar

2006 1525 page31 cap’m infamous for getting lost. It’s rather embarrassing and ironic, considering my dad makes maps for a living, and teaches a class on geographic information systems.
In my archive of wayward meanderings I am proud to count at least two foreign countries. One of the most exotic adventures occurred on a tiny island in Belize.
One beautiful morning, as the sun was peeking over the emerald water, my friend and I strolled barefooted along the beach. While conversation flowed, I didn’t notice when we left the shore and turned inland. The path grew narrower and muddier until it disappeared into a swamp. Hearing hungry tummies growling, I decided we should take the shortcut and head across the island rather than go back the way we had come. Chitchat dwindled as mud sucked at our feet, and climbed up our ankles and calves. Vultures (my overactive imagination’s version of pelicans) circled overhead. Thirsty, tired, and utterly lost, our future looked grim. Of course, this is all in retrospect. Obviously Moriah and I made it back in time for breakfast!
Perhaps the most serious of my unplanned forays took place on the University Singers’ tour to Chile last spring. Friday afternoon our huge Mercedes bus stopped in the quaint, almost Swisslike mountain village of Pocón. The first thing I noticed was a flower stand with the biggest, most vibrant flowers I had ever seen—zinnias, carnations, roses. We discovered the flowers were made of thin wood shavings dipped in paint and curled into lifelike blossoms. Mira, Nicol, and I then traipsed down the street, stopping at a restaurant to share a decadent macaroon, raspberry, whipped cream dessert. Fifteen minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave, and anxious to see the lake before we left, I bid my companions adios and hurried off. The lake stretched serene and wide, a refreshing calm in the midst of a hectic trip. I lingered long enough to watch the ducks float away.
2006 1525 page31The moment I turned around and faced the town I realized I was lost again. I walked quickly down one street and then another. But nothing looked even slightly familiar. Sending frantic, silent prayers heavenward, I walked faster, trying to appear confident—anything but lost. As I backtracked for the third or fourth time, I mentally weighed the pros and cons of asking for help. It would be the perfect opportunity for someone to take advantage of me. But it seemed I had no other option.
“Necesito ayuda,” I practiced under my breath. Ayuda por qué? How could anyone help me when I didn’t remember the name of the street I was looking for? Turning around yet again after a few blocks of seeing more of the same scenery, I promised my angel I wouldn’t go off by myself in a strange place ever again. And then I saw Brad and Masahito coming out of a bike rental shop. I ran to catch them and breathlessly expressed my relief. We found the bus in a few minutes and clambered aboard past a congenial, smiling Mr. Zork, who informed us we were waiting for his wife who was buying wooden flowers.
Although the rest of our two weeks in Chile was special and memorable, the few fearful minutes I spent traversing the sidewalks of Pocón and God’s answer to a naive girl’s prayer will serve as a lifelong reminder of my need and His love. One of my favorite hymns is “Seeking the Lost.” William Ogden must have been thinking about me when he wrote the lyrics. I need someone to seek me. To bring this wanderer back again.
Why do I stray from the straight and narrow with such an excellent map at hand? Perhaps because I don’t consult it enough. Perhaps because I’m forgetful and think I can lead myself. Maybe the way is long and hard; the shortcuts look irresistible. Or perhaps it’s simply because I’m a sinner.
Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost. I’m so glad! It feels wonderfully safe to be a lamb, sought through the storms and over rough terrain by a persistent Shepherd who carries me back to the fold every time.
Joelle Chase is a senior at Andrews University, pursuing a degree in elementary education.