It wasn’t so much a wrong turn, as that was my tried and true route to travel crosstown to my church on any given day, as it was a bad decision on this particular day. The reason being, this wasn’t just any day, this was race day. I knew the closer I got to the track, the worse traffic would become. But I didn’t have to get that close, I just needed to get to the exit that would allow me to head crosstown in the opposite direction of all the race traffic. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble once headed away from the Speedway, because all of the traffic would be going toward the Speedway. I just needed access to the exit that would put me on the path I needed to travel.
My moment of decision would come early in my journey, at the very first stoplight actually. I could either turn right and take my usual route or go straight and take a longer, less direct route, with more stoplights (no interstate) and a slower travel speed, giving me a later arrival time. The second option, however, would not be affected by any race traffic at all, because I would be heading away from the track at all times. With the first option, I would be heading toward the Speedway until I reached my exit. I decided I would make my decision at the first stoplight, when I could see for myself what traffic looked like.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
Well, at the light I saw that I could turn right, the road was clear as far down as I could see. There was no stopped or backed up traffic. So I turned and headed down the road towards my usual exit. Smooth sailing it was at first. There are no stoplights on this residential road until the intersection that contains the exit I needed. Actually, at that point there are two stoplights – one before the bridge and one on the other side of the overpass, which is where my exit lies. I did not encounter stopped traffic until I approached the first light and the backup wasn’t that long, so I wasn’t worried. I thought they were just waiting for the light to turn green.
But when the light turned green and we didn’t move I began to feel uneasy. After sitting through several cycles of the traffic light, I realized I was not much closer to it than when I first became stopped in this line of traffic. I began to panic, I began to regret my earlier decision to take this route and I began to search my mind for a solution to this problem. I was ready to consider other options. I had plenty of time to do all these things – panicking, regretting and searching for alternate routes, as I wasn’t going anywhere at the moment. Plenty of time for soul searching.
One big decision was “Do I bail at the first opportunity? or do I stay in this line, trusting that eventually I will get through the light, across the bridge and be able to exit to the right while everyone else continues inching forward in this line toward the Speedway?” Eventually I got close enough to exit to the right before the bridge, so I was headed in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go, away from where my stated destination was. I got off at the first exit, thinking I could circle back around and finally be headed in the right direction. But traffic was backed up here also. These lines of cars did not appear to be moving anytime soon. Again I headed away from where I wanted to go. I headed north (away from the Speedway) so I had a clear shot back up to 56th street, which is where I had started in the first place. Except that I was further west, further away from where I had started.
All this time, all this travel, and now I found myself further from my desired destination than ever before, not closer. I had arrived at another intersection of decision. Do I continue trying to reach my destination or do I give up? I continued on, being thankful that I still had enough gas to get me where I needed to go. This was turning out to be quite the expensive journey, with gas prices being what they are at the moment. I thought of King David saying he would not give to God an offering that cost him nothing and I drove on toward the intersection I had come to first, when this journey began.
This time, though the road appeared clear, I resisted the urge to turn right and continued on through the light. I took this road all the way cross town, till I at last headed south toward my church. It would still be aways to go, as I was much further north than I would have been had I been able to take my regular route. Still, had I taken this route today in the first place, I would have been at my destination on time, despite it being the longer, slower route.
What have I learned about wrong turns? I went toward what I knew could be a problem, could entangle me, could hold me captive and keep me from getting to where I wanted to go. I thought I would not get caught up in it, others yes, but my exit would come before any real problem would occur – only problem is, it didn’t and I was caught and captured along with everyone else. I thought I could come close to race traffic without getting caught up in it. I couldn’t – anymore than I can draw close to any sin, evil or harmful practices and not get caught up in them. Must be why Paul warned in his letter to the Thessalonians –
“Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) – or why Paul wrote to Timothy these words,
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:22-23)
I made a wrong turn. I turned towards something I knew was a problem, thinking I somehow would not come face to face with that problem. I should have turned away from race traffic, even though at that moment, from my vantage point, I saw no problem, I saw no backed up, stopped traffic. That appeared later, when I was already too far down the road to avoid it.
It occurs to me that just as important as not making a wrong turn, is choosing which direction I will turn. What I am turning towards is even more important than what I am turning away from. Paul gave this good advice to Timothy, which I think I will take to heart for myself, as it seems all too relevant for today.
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. . . . But you, man (woman) of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, . . . I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time” (1 Timothy 6:9-15)
Sometimes my life seems to be one wrong turn after another, turns that lead me to places that I don’t want to go, turns that lead to dead ends, turns that leave me lost and searching, turns that take me far from where I wanted to end up. So today, I will turn my eyes and my heart and my mind to the One who can direct my paths and Who holds me fast, even through all my wrong turns.
“Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:35-37)
sincerely, Grace Day