Waze is a wonderful app. Even though it’s been around for a while, not surprisingly, I only started using it a couple of months ago.
I have a tendency of being a little delayed when it comes to the latest trends. I sometimes hear a song for the first time and like it so much that I call my niece excitedly to tell her about it. Usually she laughs and tells me the song is several years old. Sorry One Direction.
My godfather at the Agrupación turned me on to Waze, insisting it’s infallible. Type in the address of where you want to go, and based on traffic, car accidents, and streetlights, it calculates the best option for getting you there in the quickest time. The technology is so great, it even gathers information from other motorists who witness an accident, spot a hidden police officer, or drive by a stopped vehicle on the side of the road in order to give you the most informative and safest route.
I confess, at first I had my doubts. So, one afternoon, when I was in no particular rush to get home from a baptism in Coral Gables, I tried it. I plugged in the address of Villa Javier on the Belen Jesuit campus and let Waze calculate and guide. I told myself that no matter what, I was going to follow its every command. I know exactly how to get to my house from Coral Gables, I’ve been driving that stretch for many years, but I was determined to listen to little-miss-know-it-all.
There was doubt from the start. I hadn’t pulled out of the parking lot when I was told to turn left on Red Road instead of my usual right. Still holding fast to my decision to listen and obey, I turned left. Less than half a mile heading south (the wrong direction, mind you), the computer-generated female on my iPhone told me to turn right into a residential neighborhood. Ridiculous. I had never ventured into that part of Coral Gables before, I never had any reason to do so. I was slowly becoming convinced that Waze was no good.
Two more outlandish turns later, I began arguing loudly with the wonder-app. I yelled as it continued to turn me in every direction except the one I was sure would take me home. Even though at the bottom of the screen Waze insisted that I would be pulling into my house at a reasonable hour, I was incredulous. I hadn’t even reached a major road! Where was the Wendy’s I usually passed convincing myself not to stop for a chocolate Frosty? Where was the Sinbad’s Bird Store my brother always dragged me to for his parrot’s precious meals? Where was the ramp to the congested Palmetto heading north that leads to that fabulous extension always under construction that deposits me just a mile from my domestic destination?
But in the midst of my concerns, questions, and doubts, I stayed strong and drove on. I kept reminding myself that this was just an experiment, an opportunity to prove outright whether Waze was all it was cracked up to be. Even though occasionally the screen would flash an ad for a restaurant or an airline or a towing service, I didn’t allow myself to be distracted. Finally, after several odd suggestions, I could see where I was heading and began to recognize the possible route Waze had plotted. There was light at the end of the tunnel.
Sure enough, not one minute later, I was pulling into my assigned parking space. I was home. Waze works.
I had a thought. Our lives are not very different. As a people of faith, we have some understanding that ultimately the goal in our lives is to be with God. He is our destination. The challenge is how to get there. How do we make our way to Him without running into a serious accident or heavy traffic?
The answer is Jesus Christ.
When Thomas the Apostle asked Jesus how he can know “the way,” Jesus responded that he was the way (Waze), the truth, and the light. When he told his disciples that, “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), he was insisting that the way to heaven, our ultimate destination, goes through him. He plots the course, he indicates the road we should take and the turns we should make. We may not always know where we are going, we may question one command or another, and we may be convinced that he doesn’t know what he is doing and that we know better, but ultimately, he knows best.
During my recent annual retreat, I read a book titled, “A Song for Nagasaki” (Glynn, 1988). It tells the story of Dr. Takashi Nagai. He was a scientist, researcher, convert to Catholicism, and survivor of the Atomic Bomb. This man was raised by Shinto parents and came from a long line of honorable Japanese doctors. His fascination with science led him to medical school where he decided that there was no substance to his ancestors’ religious beliefs and concluded adamantly that God did not exist.
Dr. Nagai’s desire to study the great scientific minds of the past led him to a book by French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal titled, “Pensées.” In it he was shocked to read that this learned and world-renowned man of science was also a devout Catholic, a man of faith. Along with the difficult experience of the death of his mother and his befriending of a Japanese Catholic family whose ancestors were martyrs for the faith in Nagasaki, Nagai began to wonder if there was any truth to the God of Pascal. Was there more to life than the physical reality we touch and taste and smell? Was there more to life than what we can see through a microscope or dissect with a scalpel?
Slowly, Dr. Nagai began to change and open his heart to Christ. He began to understand that there was no conflict between faith and science. The God who created the universe was a God of order and beauty and that his thirst for understanding the world was nothing more than a thirst for understanding its Creator. He continued reading Pascal and was amazed at how often the Frenchman spoke of prayer and contemplation. So, with nothing to lose, he did it. He prayed. What unfolded was a life of study and prayer that plotted him on a course towards total surrender to God.
Dr. Nagai’s conversion was unexpected. He didn’t understand why certain things happened to him, why good and bad experiences made their way into his life and the lives of others, why an all-knowing, all-powerful God would allow disease and war and poverty to exist in the world, but he couldn’t deny that he was attracted to the greatness of his newly found faith. He realized that the suffering and death he often saw in the people he treated, when united with the suffering and death of the Son of God, could take on new meaning and offer hope; more hope than even he, a scientist and doctor, could offer.
Years later, on August 9, 1945, one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan leveled his hometown of Nagasaki. Over 80,000 people died. Nagai survived. He spent countless hours working tirelessly to relieve the suffering of many. He was aware that the greatest gift he had to offer the stricken people of his village did not come so much from his medical training, but from his faith. While he suffered greatly witnessing the tragedy of war, a war that even took the life of his beloved wife, he also witnessed the blossoming of faith that emerged in the lives of those left alive.
Dr. Nagai died five years later from leukemia and overexposure to radiation poisoning. Before his death he wrote, “Some get themselves into a knot over the ‘unfairness’ of God’s Providence. Why are some people afflicted with low IQs, handicapped bodies, weak physiques, material poverty? I don’t know, but I can assure you of this: if all of us accept ourselves as we are, it is absolutely certain that a day will come when we can see how God’s plans have been accomplished, and precisely through our weakness… we are all equal in this: each of us is born to manifest God’s glory, to know, love and serve him here below and share in his eternal life after death.”
These are words from a man who at one point in his life was convinced that God did not exist. Passionate about discovering the truth, he discovered Christ. Dr. Nagai had typed “truth” as the address to where he wanted to go and the Lord took advantage sending him down paths he never expected, roads he wasn’t too sure about, and through neighborhoods that were completely foreign to him. But he went and, sure enough, not one minute later, he was home.
Everyone has his or her path to God. Some paths are more direct, while others take many turns. Some paths are smooth, while others are filled with potholes and speedbumps. It all depends on when you start, where you’re coming from, and how much you choose to listen and obey. Along the way, Jesus will place people in our lives who have traveled the road before us, people who have witnessed accidents and spotted dangers. They warn us and advise us, but in the end, we drive the car.
Life in Christ will necessarily have its unforeseen twists and turns. He will have us making a left when we want to turn right, he will have us turn around and head in the opposite direction when we want to plow straight ahead. Be assured, you will not always understand. You will often argue, doubt, and even disobey, but when the arguing and the doubting and the disobeying has you sitting in unexpected traffic caused by an accident you could not have possibly known about, you can always turn back to Christ and trust in his waze.