The maps of life - George De Long

Updated: Nov 23, 2018

The North pole. The frozen tip of the earth far away from civilisation. In the 1800s, many countries wanted to conquer this elusive frontier - some for new trade routes, some for scientific discoveries and some merely for glory. But none of them could reach the pole. In 1871, the United States sent a ship named Polaris but it ended in a disaster.

Few years later, another team of explorers set out to achieve what everyone else had failed, this time led by a determined captain - George Washington De Long

So on 8th July 1879, USS Jeannette, a propeller driven U.S. Navy steamship, departed San Francisco with 33 crew on board. They had everything going right for them. A great leader, an experienced crew, adequate funding, sky-high hopes of glory and the goodwill of a whole nation.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, it was one small thing. The map!

George De Long relied on a map that showed an open polar sea. It was widely believed that there existed a clear sea beyond the thick layers of ice on-route the north pole. Though all previous expeditions who relied on this map had got trapped in the ice, George believed that if he could make his ship strong enough and find a gap in the ice, he could get to the open seas.

It didn't take long for De Long to realise that all the best cartographers, scientists, and geographers had got it wrong.

The Jeannette soon ran into miles of hardened ice with no sight of an opening. By 1881, less than two years after leaving San Francisco, the ship was crushed by ice in the vicinity of the New Siberian Islands, north of Russia. George ordered his crew to abandon the ship. It sank the following day. The crew salvaged all that they could from the ship and walked on ice toward the Siberian mainland pulling their small boats and supplies. They split into teams of three for better navigation. After an arduous trek on the ice and rowing in icy waters for over 90 days, only 12 crew members made it safe to Siberia. George De Long was not one of them. He perished in the Arctic.

The story of the Jeannette is a tragic one. A wonderful mission that went awfully wrong because of a wrong map.

Our life too is a journey into unchartered waters. We make hundreds of choices each day as we move on. So do we have a map to navigate? Well, we do have one; it our worldview. Knowingly or unknowingly we rely on our worldview to make our choices.

Not just for trivial decisions, we bank on it to answer important life questions too; questions like - Who am I? How did I get here? How do I decide right and wrong? Do I have a purpose or meaning in life? What happens after I die?

Quite often we make our own maps inspired by what others around us have done and achieved. But then we get stuck in the thick ice of life not knowing how to move on ahead. So a good question to ask would be - Do I have the right map of life? Will it take me home? The Bible assures us that God’s designs for our life are for good. He knows the end from the beginning. He provides a map not just to get by this life on earth but one that leads us onto towards eternal life as well.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He is the way and he is the destination. May we choose to trust his directions because he will never leave us nor forsake us on the high seas of life.
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