Oops! Made a wrong turn! What do I do now?
Who hasn't made a wrong turn that morphed into an afternoon in ghenna? It's the stuff of a comedy scenario that most of us experience at least once on a family vacation. There's always the wrong turn that leads us into a warren of inner city streets or endless country roads that moves us far from our original destinaion. The goal of crossing the city may have been replaced by a simple wish to get back to the highway. This diversion can be frightening, especially when there appears to be no way out. It's a wrong turn that can get worse.
These kinds of wrong turns seem so improbable in a world with our technical advantages. Global positioning technology makes precision travel standard equipment in most vehicles, not to mention the mapping and design feaures of our most basic smart phones and tablets. In a world where travel assistance companies will map an entire vacation, to be lost-in-the-city seems unlikely. Still, there are those days when we miss the track or marked path and are diverted for an unpredictable period of time in never-never land. How does this happen?
1. We've never been here before. Usually we miss the path that we've never traveled.
So, being in a new place can create travel dilemmas because we don't know the
2. Roadways aren't always marked. Some municipalities and rural governments don't
mark their streets, avenues, and roadways all that well. Our map may indicate turns
onto thoroughfares that aren't identified. Wrong turns are easy here.
3. We like to explore. Taking in the sights is a fun part of travel. Sometimes we see
something on a side-street that perks our interest and leads us outside the defined
markers. Humans are quite curious.
4. We've disengaged the guidance systems. We're also independent and like to forge
our own path.
5. Somebody told us about a short-cut through Manhatten. Well, I know what the GPS
lady is saying, but John told me a way through here that is more scenic and shorter.
Making wrong turns is more probable when there are no clear directions. A fast-paced world like ours will make all of the above travel mistakes because for one reason or another we've abandoned our itinerary. I'm reminded of the Israelites when God directed Joshua to lead them on the final stages of their journey to the land of Promise.
At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the
people, "As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being
carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it.
Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do
not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not
passed this way before." Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves,
for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you." And Joshua said to the priests,
"Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people." So they took up
the ark of the covenant and went before the people. Joshua 3:2-6, ESV
They were going where they had never been before. The directional markers of the cultures that were then living in the land had been moved and altered so that the nation of Israel could not follow them. Some of them wanted to turn back and go to Egypt, while others wanted to find better ways or seek short-cuts to Palestine. The potential for wrong turns was great. So, God gave them directions. Clear diretions. The Ark of the Covenant would go before them.
Spiritual leaders and churches make these same kinds of wrong turns today. Suddenly the cultural mores of our world have been upended in moral relativism and the mile markers have been changed. At one time the strong word of God and the persona of Jesus Christ the Lord were the clear directional signals by which we navigated the times. But, secularism has altered the road signs, human exceptionalism has been elevated above the defined standard of God's Word, and our human curiosity has plunged us into areas outside the parameters of his guidance to seek mission and purpose.
And this basic wrong turn has steered us into the warren of a mess, a confused, inter-tangled mesh of traffic, a ghetto of side-streets and alleys of depravity without end.
How did we get here? We stopped following directions, turned off the guidance systems, listened to the wrong voices, and got lost in the traffic. Someone said the church got lost in the "woulds". Yes. that's it. Lost in what we would do or would be.
Making wrong turns is human. God doesn't make them, however. And, he's provided guidance from above to give us poor humans clear directions as we navigate the complicated lanes of this world. Getting back on track is simply turning to him, no matter the nature of the wrong turn, and asking him to lead us on. With King David we must pray...
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.