For several hours after we arrived at home I felt like I was still moving. A fine trembling in my bones replaced the vibration of tires on asphalt and I half-expected the items in my peripheral vision to pass more quickly than they did as I rolled my suitcase down the hall to the bedroom.
I was kind of proud that I just drove from eastern British Columbia to California and back again. We enjoyed different scenery than we are used to. Then I remembered my Dad’s friend who drove that route twice a week, hauling back truckloads of fruit or vegetables. He said fresh raspberries were the worst.
“They have no patience or endurance, them things. They’ll turn themselves into a thousand pounds of red mush if the load shifts or you get held up somewheres,” he said. “Give me crates of oranges or carrots.”
Twice a week. Wow. Now that man had both patience and endurance.
I suppose he knew the road so well he wouldn’t get lost like I did when I missed an important exit ramp. My instincts about which lane to be in are terrible. The last time I drove this route I nearly went around the bend in Bend when I was caught up in a surge of traffic that herded me off toward Portland when I didn’t want to go to Portland. Later that day I found myself half-way to Yakima before I could find a place to turn around after missing the sign that pointed to Kennewick. It was probably behind the onion truck.
We have a talking guidance system in our car which is marvelously wonderful compared to reading huge floppy paper maps by a wimpy light in the ceiling like in the old days, but it can’t be entirely trusted. I talk back to the in-800-meters-make-a—–left-turn lady a lot, and not always in the most respectful tone. Most of the time she is brilliant, but she can be incredibly obtuse when it comes to one-way streets, construction zones, and especially new overpasses.
“What left turn? There is no road on the left anywhere around…. aaargh… that was the exit ramp on the right, wasn’t it. Seriously? ‘Make a u-turn, if possible,’ is not going to cut it here on a divided highway with an 18 wheeler breathing down my neck, GPS lady! I trusted you and you misled me!”
On the other hand I could have been trying to cross Oregon in an oxcart. I’ve heard that wrong turns had more serious consequences than a half hour delay when the pioneers first attempted the journey. I should be more thankful.
Yes, I am grateful for a heated, air-conditioned, low-emissions, adjustable-seated vehicle with air bags, surround sound, USB port and a lady in the dashboard who tells me that my destination is ahead on the left. Very grateful indeed. Bridges and paved roads with shoulders are great and signs that give you enough notice to be in the proper lane are a God-send. Thank you.
But I still hate getting lost or off-track with nowhere to turn around for miles. I am almost ready to park and walk on dark rainy nights in a strange city with signs that say one-way, no left turn. and no u-turn. Do people living there just keep going in ever-widening circles to the right, hoping eventually to make contact with their hotel? Is there no mercy for those of us who are in the wrong lane or who make a wrong turn?
I saw a different sign on the outskirts of Sandpoint in Idaho in a neighbourhood where all the big box stores decided to settle. On the highway running past parking lots and colourful buildings with familiar logos I saw a lane that was designated for u-turns. In fact there was more than one lane on this stretch of the road for people who didn’t want to go that direction anymore. The sign had a curved arrow and said: U-TURN. Drivers could actually, legally “make a u-turn if possible.” How thoughtful!
The sign caught my attention. I’ve been thinking about it and wondering why it stood out to me. Then the Lord reminded me of the conversation we had been having about seeking direction for my life. I have been asking, “Who do you want to be for me now?”
I believe he is saying, “I am the way. I am your u-turn lane. I am your motive, means and opportunity for change. I give you permission to do things differently.”
When Jesus began his preaching ministry on earth this is what he said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The meaning of the word “repent” has been shifted and squashed like an unrecognizable mass of raspberries in a truck that has hit too many speed bumps. We associate it with sign-carrying doomsday prophets, Bible thumpers, and religious police on the lookout for anyone exceeding the limits of propriety by having fun. To many of us “repentance” brings up images of airing dirty laundry in traveling tent meetings, or of reciting prayers and doing penance as punishment or even joining Monty Pythonesque flagellation marches. Mea culpa, whack, mea culpa...
Repent, as most of us understand it nowadays, is not an inviting word.
But repent (metanoeo in Greek) actually means to turn, to change, to think differently, to admit to ourselves, and those we have offended, that we know we are going in the wrong direction, that this is not working, and we want to make a u-turn. It’s an invitation to the kingdom.
Sometimes we are on the wrong road because we were misled. Sometimes we were caught up in a crowd, or missed the signs or were not paying attention. Sometimes, like I did in Klamath Falls, we turn off to eat a quick lunch in a pretty park down by the lake and realize getting back on track is not as easy as getting off. Sometimes we outright rebel and run angrily in the opposite direction, finding ourselves on a dirt track that goes over a dubious bridge and dead-ends at the dump. (I may have learned that lesson the hard way too.)
Jesus doesn’t wait on the high road for us to figure out how to get out of the mess ourselves before he’ll meet with us. He, himself, provides the way to change. The Bible tells us that it is the kindness of God that leads us to change direction, so we can follow him and his kingdom ways.
One of the things I love about my husband is his ability to make a diagnosis and take math students back to the point where they got lost. Then he helps them find their way again. A lot of professors can teach brilliant, enthused A students, but it takes someone who genuinely cares to take the time to help a D or F student turn around, get back on track and gain the confidence they need to pursue dreams of higher education. When they begin to let go of the label of “stupid” they lose the fear of trying. They wear a new sign that says “capable.” I watch him do this all the time. He’s amazing.
This is what God does with his children. When we come to him wearing a sign around our neck that says “hopeless sinner” he takes it off, helps us find the place where we got off track and provides our u-turn lane in Christ. He tells us who we really are, “saint,” and gives us a vision of hope. He points toward the dreams he placed in us. Then he goes with us.
He’s just that good. He really is.