Some specifics are lost to me now. The name of the street. The month of the year. The amount of time I wandered. What was lost to me then was the placement of our car. In a day before locator pins, this farm girl from a town of ninety-eight parked in a city of three million.
Since arriving on the island five years prior, I’d been driving in metropolitan Taiwan. In the 80s, all you needed for legalization was an American driver’s license, a mandible check, a colorblind test, and the ability to walk like a duck. I’d passed each test with flying colors. (I could still pass three).
By way of excuse, our car looked much like the other three-hundred fifty thousand vying for parking that Sunday. Road film equalized almost every ride into an anemic, ashen grey. I hadn’t realized how easy it was to misplace a ton of fiberglass and metal.
Mark, our daughters, and a Chinese friend were already at our favorite Szechuan restaurant, ordering Kung Pao Chicken, Pineapple Shrimp, and Beef with Green Pepper. We often frequented this mom-and-pop shop loving its scents of garlic, ginger, and lightning-hot chilis. I’d dropped them off, confident I’d be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
The nearby university was hosting a spectacular event, filling available parking for blocks on end. Since students had claimed our usual parking spots, I widened my search to include unfamiliar streets and narrow alleys. I combed the area for twenty minutes until finally spying an opening between a Vespa 150 and a compact Ford. I wedged quickly underneath a billboard advertising goat’s milk and grabbed my purse.
After several minutes of walking, I’d still not arrived on a familiar street. I peeked around a corner, took a turn, and repeated both actions twice before realizing I no longer knew where the restaurant was.
After several minutes of digression, I asked for directions to the landmark McDonald’s nearby. “Excuse me, Mai Dang Lao is where?” I queried, using the correct grammar in Mandarin.
The woman smiled, motioned for me to follow, and turned to walk in the complete opposite direction. She snaked through several alleys and, in about seven minutes, pointed to the golden arches. I was so relieved; I could have hugged her.
When I walked through the restaurant doors, Mark was obviously concerned, “Are you okay?” he asked. “We were getting worried.“
“Yes,” I dismissed, “I just got a little turned around.“
As I picked in their cold left-over’s, Mark asked, “Where is the car?“
It wasn’t until then that I realized my small-town background hadn’t prepared me for this. Bless my heart. After a long pause, I answered flatly, “It’s underneath a goat.“
The next hour and a half were tense as the five of us intently searched together. Although I didn’t know exactly where I’d parked, I could head in the general direction. With Mark’s sense of direction and my Chinese friend’s language ability to ask for help, we finally found the car — more due to desperate prayers than my decisive memory.
Sometimes we don’t know how lost we are until someone asks us where we are going. We know the general direction we should go, but we can’t see how to get there. Uncertainty of the next step immobilizes our journey to the next destination.
That’s why we need community — others with a good sense of direction, the ability to ask good questions, and participants with Kingdom language skills to intercede for us. Moving toward truth always reveals more truth (Psalm 36:9). Once in a society of other diligent seekers, what is hidden will eventually become clear (Mark 4:22).
There is only One Way, and He has written us a Book about it (John 14:6). “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear” (Revelation 1:3). Use this time of uncertainty to pick up the Life Map He offers. His purpose is to “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). I’m thankful He does that in community.