by Joanie Butman

Last weekend during a long road trip, we stopped at a service area for lunch. While sitting at a table enjoying the people watching in the bustling food court, I observed a cute, elderly man with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips, calling out into the crowd, “Marco?” He wandered around with his tray repeating his call until I finally heard his wife reply with a dainty “Polo” as she came to join him, and lead him to their table.

I can’t say why I immediately saw the analogy to my spiritual life. It suddenly struck me, “My walk with God has been a lifelong variation of the game of Marco Polo!” For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it is a form of tag played in a swimming pool. The “It” person keeps his eyes closed calling out ‘Marco,’ to which the other players reply ‘Polo,’ thereby allowing him to locate them – a human echolocation of sorts. The problem is your targets keep moving in an effort to outpace you. Wikipedia comments: "The game shares its name with the 13th century Venetian trader and explorer Marco Polo, and legend has it that the famed explorer didn’t really have a clue as to where he was going, much like the ‘It’ person.” That would certainly describe me for a good portion of my life, so guess who’s ‘It’ in the following variation?

Divine Marco Polo is confined to two players and is more reminiscent of a treasure hunt than tag. The biggest difference is that my ‘Polo’ never moves. No matter how far off course I get, He patiently responds to my often-frantic call with a resounding ‘Polo!’ allowing me to recalibrate my bearings. Those times when His voice sounds like a distant whisper are because I’ve chosen to move so far in the opposite direction. Or it might be because I’ve chosen to stop calling out, or maybe I call out but choose to rush off in another direction without waiting for a response. For the most part, the difficulty in hearing his voice is a function of allowing the cacophony of voices clamoring for my attention to overpower it.

We began a new year of Bible study last week with the question, ”Why do you study the Bible?” Everyone has a different answer. For me, it is to refine my sense of hearing in order to improve my skill at spiritual Marco Polo. Learning about the character of God allows me to get to know Him better, which helps me recognize His voice amongst the monkey chatter that surrounds me AND boosts its volume so that I can hear it amidst the noise of life. Studying scripture also enables me to call out more boldly and with confidence as a child does to a father. C.S. Lewis has a quote I can’t recall verbatim, but the essence of it is that every decision we make either moves us closer to God or not. It's our choice. Life with God is definitely not a game per se but an adventure and not without a hefty dose of fun.

Much like that darling, playful senior in the rest stop whose wife came alongside him with a grin, her affection obvious as she took hold of his hand and gently guided him to his seat, God is eager to do the same for us. He waits patiently for us to choose to call out to Him, growing ever closer until the time he takes hold of our hand and leads us towards home.

The Bible is the map with which I navigate life. Marco Polo may not have known where he was going, but I do. Do you?

P.S. I will be off exploring new territory for the next two weeks. Back online October 19th.