Sometimes we think that we have learned all that we need to know about something and that we don’t need to learn the same things over and over. I had an experience that taught me how important it is to be humble and willing to learn the same lessons again and again.
A number of years ago, while teaching at a university, I received an invitation to attend a professional seminar in Dallas, Texas. I was delighted because my wife’s sister lived there with her family. We were able to combine a family vacation with my seminar. When my sister-in-law learned of the seminar’s location, she informed me that the hotel was difficult to locate due to construction in the area. She drew up a map with numerous details to assist me in getting to downtown Dallas.
On the first morning of the seminar, I was extremely careful and gave much attention to the map. Remarkably, I made all the correct turns and arrived safely at the hotel. As I approached the hotel, I realized that it truly had been a difficult route. I knew that without the map, I would have been lost. I was pleased that I had arrived on time and never had to seek directions from anyone.
After the day’s seminar, I drove home, once again closely following the directions on the map. It was even more difficult, as I had to reverse the directions. Again, I was pleased to make all the correct turns and arrive home safely. The drive took more than an hour.
The second morning found me being a little casual about the map, due to my success of the previous day. At times, I even tried to rely solely on my recollections of the previous day’s journey. I arrived at the hotel on time, amazed at my ability to navigate in this unfamiliar city. That day the seminar instructors presented us with two armloads of books and other materials to study in the evening.
When I arrived at my car for the drive home, I tossed the map onto the backseat and put my new materials on the front seat. I started to think that my sister-in-law did not have enough confidence in my ability to drive in this city. I decided that I no longer needed the map.
I had no trouble getting onto the right interstate highway and making the correct exit to the next one. Then I took the right exit to the subdivision where my sister-in-law lived, found the right street without any problems, and parked in front of the house.
I retrieved all my materials from the car and juggled them in my arms as I picked up the evening paper from the lawn. I entered the front door and turned right, walking down the hall to the guest bedroom. I put my books on the dresser, sat down on the bed and removed my shoes, anxious to study my new materials. As I opened my first book, I glanced quickly around the room, then looked again. The furniture had been changed. I thought that my family should have told us that they were changing furniture. I looked more closely at it, thinking that I liked the old bedroom set better than this new one. I stood up and looked across the hall into another bedroom. Two teenage girls were sitting on the bed, talking. I thought that my sister-in-law must be serving in Young Women, as her own children were three young boys. The girls didn’t seem to notice me. I tried to study my materials again, but I couldn’t concentrate. A suspicion was growing in me that I had made a dreadful mistake.
By now you have realized what it took me a long time to figure out: I was in the wrong house, sitting on a stranger’s bed with my shoes off! Somehow I put on my shoes, collected my books and the newspaper, and started down the hall toward the front door. Just before I reached it, I encountered two ladies. “Pardon me,” I said. “I haven’t met you before.” Then I quickly shouted, “I am in the wrong house!” They watched calmly as I bolted through the door and tossed their newspaper onto the lawn where I had retrieved it only minutes before. My heart was beating wildly! I jumped into the car and made my getaway. I had stopped one block short of my destination.
I got myself into this predicament because I became too casual in following the road map. I learned a great principle from this experience: We can do many things right but still leave important things undone and come up a kingdom short. I had made all the correct turns on my journey home, but it was clear that I still needed to pay attention to the map.
What I learned that day about needing to continue to follow the directions on the map applies also to obeying the commandments. The scriptures reveal the divine desires of Heavenly Father and the Savior in our lives. We must study the scriptures daily so that our lives are centered around the things we learn. The scriptures become a road map for our lives. Unless we study and follow this map always, it becomes of little value in giving direction to our lives, and we can end up in the wrong place.