Asking for directions

by Tim Patterson

(Courtesy of Colombia Pictures)

PLYMOUTH, MI – One day during this past crazy year, Sabrina said, “I feel like I am trapped in the Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day.” I’m stuck in the same day, over and over again!”

I believe we all understand how she feels. I have felt like I took a wrong turn somewhere in March 2020, and I can’t find my way back to the right road.

Lost is a good word for what many of us are experiencing. Trying to find our purpose. Trying to find our place. Trying to find a way forward. Trying to find peace. Trying to find some semblance of normalcy. Trying to find a sliver of sanity. Trying to find a way through the lunacy and discord of an absolutely insane political season. The real problem is that many of us are lost, and refuse to ask for directions. Of course, I am speaking from a man’s perspective.

One of the genetic faults within the male species that has been passed on since the first human couple walked in the cool of the garden is still extant in the genetic makeup of every man that is alive today. Most men have a great sense of direction, but on those rare occasions when we do get lost it is embedded deep within our DNA not to ask for directions. We just can’t do it!

One would just as well ask us to soar into the heavens by flapping our arms than to hope that a lost man would ask for directions. We are men and we know it. We know who we are and are proud of it. Pride being the operative word.

Another aspect of this malady of mankind is that when we are lost, we immediately go into a state of mind that is as absolutely involuntary and natural as is the process of breathing. We begin to act as if we know where we are, and give forth the impression that we are in total control. To admit otherwise would go against our inbred programming. As one fellow told me, “It just ain’t natural.”

A story that has been passed on for several decades reinforces the fact that even the most intelligent of our species still gets lost. As you may know, Albert Einstein, the great physicist, was one of the greatest minds the human race has ever birthed. His achievements in quantum physics and his understanding of the atom advanced us light years (no pun intended) into the future of scientific knowledge. He was such a great thinker that Time magazine honored him as the Man of the Century.

Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached into his other pocket. It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He couldn't find it.

The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.' Einstein nodded appreciatively.

The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one.' Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.”

Most of us know who we are, but like the genetically faulty male, when we realize we are lost and don’t know where we are going, we are hard pressed to admit it. Dr. Billy Graham made reference to this same story in a message he was delivering and at the conclusion of his address said, “I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I'm going."

2020 – The year we lost and were lost. The year when so many could not find their way. I am so glad to see it in my “rearview mirror.” May 2021 be the year of asking directions. The year of knowing the Way. All we have to do is ask.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6 (NKJV)



Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.



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