Just a little note to offer you some encouragement on this dreary Wednesday morning.
Last month I was perusing Facebook and came across this status from my mother-in-law.
“Transmission problems…car will not reverse but hey, who wants to go backwards anyhow!”
Isn’t that the truth? Who wants to go backwards? To go backwards is to correct a course. To admit a wrong direction. To give ground in a stand-off. To go backwards requires more effort. I need mirrors and flexibility as I twist around to see where I came from. I need to move slower so that I don’t drive off into a ditch because, let’s face it, I’m not used to going backwards. To go backwards requires patience with myself, because if I have been driving full-throttle down the wrong road it may take a while to back up to the correct path again.
The Christian journey is often described as “two steps forward and one step back.” I suppose the idea is to offer hope to those struggling with the walk that, although the going seems slow, there is progress. But I wonder if from another angle the walk looks more like “one step forward three steps back.”
C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity pointed out:
We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
You’re Going the Wrong Way!
I love the scene in the 1987 movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, in which Del (John Candy) and Neal (Steve Martin) are driving down the highway in the middle of the night—on the wrong side of the highway. Another driver comes up along side of them (on the other side of the median) and frantically tries to convince them, “You’re going the wrong way!”
Did you start the morning with yet another belittling outburst against your children? Are you stuck on a one-lane, one-way alley of irritation with and disappointment in your spouse? Have you damaged a friendship through neglect? Maybe you feel like you’ve been on this path for far too long. Maybe you can’t even see the fork behind you where you got off course. Maybe you feel like it’s hopeless since you will only get off track again at the next intersection. As a good friend reminded me recently, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” Hit the brakes. Grind the gears. Throw it into reverse. There are no cut-overs. There is no amount of religious winding that will maneuver you back to the right path.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5.23-24
No amount of religious activity can make the paths we’ve taken away from one another holy and good paths. No worship, no offerings, no service replaces the simple yet hard work of repentance. Going backwards. Turning around The way forward is back. And is only possible because of the One who backed up first for us.
Reversal of Fortune
At the cross God turns around from the wrath intended for us, turns that wrath from us to his beloved Son who willingly took the punishment our paths held for us. In the greatest back up in History God reversed the effects of sin, raising His Son from the dead, so that we could have life in His Name. The great hope we have that we can back up quickly or even back up after a long wandering is that God opened the path back to himself through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And if we can back up from the path leading away from our heavenly Father, then we can back up from the paths we have taken from each other. Turn around. Christ has replaced your transmission so you can back up regularly, daily, early or late. What a picture of glory, each of us-arm on the backrest, head twisted around, front of the car fishtailing in the back as we fly down the road toward one another, glad for the capital ‘R’ Jesus has put in our gear box.
Enjoy the Journey!