Oops! Made a wrong turn. What should I do now?
My greatest regrets in thirty-five years of pastoral ministry are the turns I missed a long the way. Sometimes my GPS was turned off. Occasionally I was listening to the loud music on the iPod and couldn't hear the instructions. Once in a while I was so absorbed with the scenery I wasn't paying attention to the system and allowed the turn to slip past. There were times when I was in the wrong lane. Ad nausem...
They're all instances of an attention deficit disorder that has me and so many others distracted these days. It's suddenly the age of the multi-tasker and us single track people can't always absorb the activity happening in all three rings at the same time. In a hectic world the church leaders justify themselves by a veneer of busy-ness. And, the pace can distract us from turns we're supposed to make but miss because we're not paying attention. For this very reason alone, the missed turn may be the most prevalent of the wrong turns spiritual leaders make. It can be intentional, meaning, I didn't want to go there, or unintentional, meaning, I wanted to go there but was pre-occupied and missed it. In either event, the impact of a missed turn may be more apparent when looking in the rear-view mirror. Then, too often, it's a regret.
Confession time. There are times when I don't want to hear from God. Like King David, there are occasions when most of us want to flee his presence and find a place where we can hide from him and not hear his voice (see Psalm 139:7-12 for a rehearsal of David's escape prayer). It may be from fatigue, over-work, too many plates in the air, or just being overwhelmed with mission that we desire some solitude and respite from the treadmill. That's when the GPS is turned off and the turn is missed because we don't want to hear about it. Maybe I'm the only one here, but there are occasionally turns I don't want to know about.
A friend changed the voice on his car GPS from the soothing female voice to the voice of Mr. T. Now, when he misses the turn the voice from The A-Team yells, "Hey, fool, you missed that turn. Better get it in reverse or you'll lose yo way! Fool!!!".
Just as real we all have our comfort zones and a turn may interrupt it. Whether it's the music or the landscape around us, we can be lulled into a sense of ease without much effort. Missing a turn is easy when you're loving the journey so much the destination isn't all that important. I'm always very thankful that the Assistant Holy Spirit is also a great back-seat or side-seat driver. Sometimes when we're grooving along she'll say, "You just missed the turn", or, "Are you asleep? Our turn was two blocks back". We laugh about it but t's a serious matter when the turns in life are instructions for God, and we miss them because of our little pre-occupations.
Years ago, when I was fresh out of semianry and in my first post graduation ministry assignment, a lady called and asked me to visit. She told me she wanted to receive Christ as her savior. I dawdled around for a couple of months, marveling at the ministry opportunities he was opening for us every day and never visited the lady. She died of cancer a few months later. I've never forgotten it. A missed turn.
Being in the wrong lane is a strategic error when making turns. Hardly a day passes when I don't see some driver cross four lanes of traffic on our busiest roadway to make a turn. Sometimes people get killed making this maneuver. Being in the wrong lane is just poor preparation. A destination is usually in mind when we're traveling and sometimes we are thoughtless about what needs to happen as we prepare for the turns along the way. We're supposed to prepare and remain prepared. Missing the turn is a wrong turn because we didn't make it.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy were traveling through Phrygia and Galatia and were in Mysia. They were headed to Bithynia. But, there was a turn. The Holy Spirit divertd them to Troas when the man of Macedonia appeared to them and asked them to come there for mission. They concluded that God had called them to preach the gospel to the people of Macedonia (see Acts 16:6-10). They were alert and ready for his voice. They didn't make a wrong turn and produced many kingdom results in that area.
When God called Abram it was with a very wide-open invitation and promise. He said, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). He was telling Abram that there would be turns in the way and that he and his family would have to pay attention in order to make them.
The missed turn is a geographical mistake, no doubt. It's also a time miscalculation as well. You see, we might not ever pass that way again. And, the missed turn will forever be a regret in the rear view mirror.