“Not all who wander are lost.” Except in Venice. Most who wander with and without a map are lost. What freedom to be lost on an island!

My map reading adventures began when I was proclaimed the navigator on road trips. Barely able to read, my mom taught me to follow the map route she had shown me on the map so that I could tell her the number or name on the next road we needed to take. My younger brother was the co-pilot in charge of snacks and drinks. I can still spend hours looking at maps with paper still my preferred format.

A map in Venice, Italy is a suggestion, and alleys, pathways, bridges, and footpaths might be documented on the map. What do you call a road, street, lane, or drive in a city with no cars? They might be a dead end. They might lead to a bridge over the next canal you need to cross. You might backtrack many times to get to your next destination. That is why you see signs for the major landmarks along the narrow passageways and at intersections through the nearly ancient city. “San Marcos” directing to the Piazza San Marcos and Basilica di San Marco. “Rialto” leading to the Rialto bridge over the Grand Canal. An occasional picture of a boat will tell of a vaporetto, or water bus stop, on a nearby canal.

For some this can be a nightmare, and for me this is a great adventure. My maps have lines I’ve drawn indicating where we’ve walked so on another trip I can plan new routes. The map I’m looking at now has a note showing where Gianni Basso’s tiny print shop hides in a quiet corner with centuries old printing presses. Just down the path from his shop was a waterside road with a quiet park and a bench under a large tree. I need to remember how to find those quiet places too.

Navigating Venice is entirely on foot, except for when you choose to take the vaporettos for a water view. (I recommend that too.) With a little practice, you begin to mix reading your map with following your intuition and inner voice of experience. The path you think will take you to the bridge over the next canal becomes a dead end because you discover it wasn’t actually on the map. The water of high tide has crossed your path so you climb onto raised walkways walking till you get to the bridge that takes you to higher ground. Once, we couldn’t find a recommended restaurant and the little detail of ironwork on a bridge in the picture was the clue to help us find it. Yet, I’ve found I never really get lost when I’m exploring Venice.

Call to Action

Just like a map of Venice, the Bible gives us the direction we need so that we aren’t lost. The more time you spend reading it, studying it, and praying over it, the more your path becomes clear. You may find dead ends, you may pass high water, and you may not know what is next for your life; but the Holy Spirit takes you to the right passage, shows you a new perspective, and your vision clears to guide your way out of the impossible dead end. It takes you to the quiet places by the water, it leads you to food for your soul, and it carries you in the arms of your Maker when your feet are unable to carry you any farther.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

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