Note: This content is from journal entry dated June 10, 2018, and was revised on July 18, 2019.
This morning I woke up at six o’clock to go to a meeting. I’d been to the place where these meetings are held once before, but it was two weeks ago, and my friend showed me the way only two days after the half-day-long flight to this place where breakfast and suppertime have been swapped. It took about fifteen minutes walking to reach our destination from the subway station, and during the walk that day—the most critical part of the two-hour journey, the “home stretch,” if you will—I was so busy reuniting with this friend I hadn’t seen in about four years, that I hardly paid any attention to the roads we were taking. All I could remember from that walk two weeks ago in my jet-lagged, Chatty-Cathy stupor was that we had used Exit X to leave subway station Y, and that we’d walked along a bigger street, and then turned onto a smaller street, and then maybe onto another smaller street. The only landmarks I could remember were a building that looked to me like it came straight out of The Jetsons and a row of squatty apartments that looked very traditional and ancient, of which there was no shortage in this city. It’d be a miracle if I found my way walking alone this time without the address of my destination, an internet connection on my American SIM-card equipped phone, and the ability to ask anyone for directions.
Stepping out of the subway station, I saw a Starbucks and thought, “Maybe I should just stop here. I’d rather drink some coffee than take my chances on finding this place.” See, when you’re in a foreign country, things become incredibly simple, yet unbelievably complicated all at once. In a place where you don’t speak the local language and are navigating life in a different culture, ordering a meal and subsequently receiving exactly what you ordered can feel as good as winning a $100 gift card to Target, while going to three different banks to try convert your currency to no avail can be as defeating as hearing that the Lumineers are breaking up, so you’ll never get to fulfill that bucket-list dream of seeing them live. Searching for a specific, yet undistinguished, location like I was about to do was going to result in one of those outcomes, and I really didn’t have the emotional capacity for it to be the latter.
When I’m alone in a foreign country, I have no choice but to depend on God to help me with tasks that come so naturally in my home country but seem so impossibly difficult abroad. So, as ridiculous as it may sound, I resolved to rely on God’s leading—in a very literal sense—to get me to the place I was trying to go. I knew the general direction past the Starbucks and decided to start putting one foot in front of the other to yi zhi zou (go straight) because standing still wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
As I began taking the first few steps, little by little, things started to look familiar – parking spots, the arm to a gate, a Subway restaurant… I walked for a while, feeling like the steps and driveways on the right were familiar, while the unique buildings on the left were not. I considered abandoning my plan for the comfort of a cappuccino, but “yi zhi zou” rang in my ears.
Eventually, the road I had committed to following came to an end. More specifically, it ran into another road parallel to a wall about seven feet high. Moments later, I realized this wall was connected to the ancient squatty apartments – I was on the right track! The only problem was that I had to choose whether to go right or left. Dozens of elderly folks were outside playing mahjong to my right, and although I didn’t remember seeing them there two weeks prior, it seemed that walking past them was the correct way to go. As I continued walking, I thought I should turn right again a few times. I really wanted to, unsure of what was ahead and afraid of walking past the destination, getting confused, and losing my way. I wanted to turn around, but something urged me to keep going. Yi zhi zou…yi zhi zou. Every few feet, another confirmation would appear: a gated community on the right, a side-street on the left… And finally, a clearing on the right full of motorbikes, with my destination towering just behind it.
I couldn’t see if I was correct at the beginning of the journey, but God faithfully guided me each step of the way, revealing the next tiny bit of the picture at just the right time. I was so relieved and felt so seen when I realized God had helped me reach such an obscure location. In that moment of seeing that I had arrived, I paused for a few seconds to etch in my mind what had just happened. My heart was so grateful. Grateful for God’s help but more so for His character and involvement. We have a God who wants to speak to us. Who wants to lead us. Who wants to show us the way every day. He wants us, and He wants our hearts.
This 15-minute journey challenged me to purpose in my heart that when I am hesitant or unsure, I will stay the course. I will put one foot in front of the other on the path the Lord has set before me. I will not turn back for the sake of comfort, and I will not be held back by fear. I will not be led astray. Yi zhi zou I will stay.