Amazing things, these modern gadgets. Take, for instance, the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) enabled apps that come preloaded on most smartphones. You enter your destination address by voice or on the touch-screen, then simply follow the on-screen images and turn-by-turn voice instructions as they guide you on your way. If you overshoot your destination, or make a wrong turn en route, no problem. The system will “think” for a bit, then begin to provide recalibrated directions based upon your current location, all without snarky comments reminding you that if you had simply listened to the directions, you wouldn’t be in your present predicament. I’m pretty sure these navigation apps are destined to save more than a few marriages.
Consider how in the grand story of Scripture something similar is at work. Time and again, God presents his people with a way in which to walk, a path toward godliness. Though people have the freedom to walk on that good path, they often choose to go their own way. Fortunately, when people stray from God’s path, God doesn’t say, “Well, that’s it for you. You’re on your own now. Good luck getting to where you’re going now.” Instead, God shows a remarkable and creative patience in recalibrating and saying, in essence, “OK. You have not chosen the easiest way to get to where you need to go. But now that we’re here, this is how you can get home.”
One important Biblical word for this recalibrated journey back to God is “repentance.” This word conveys the idea of turning or returning, as in a rebellious people returning to serve their rightful king or an unfaithful spouse returning to her marriage. More than a simple change of mind, such biblical turning includes turning away from willful sin and intentionally turning toward righteousness. Like the GPS-guided driver, repentant believers are not simply ceasing to move in the wrong direction but are also purposefully moving toward a specific destination. Such a return can include the reorientation of one’s whole life and the adoption of a new way of treating others.
Anne Lamott relates a story that her minister shared: “When she was about seven, her best friend got lost one day. The little girl ran up and down the streets of the big town where they lived, but she couldn’t find a single landmark. She was very frightened. Finally, a policeman stopped to help her. He put her in the passenger seat of his car, and they drove around until she finally saw her church. She pointed it out to the policeman, and then she told him firmly, ‘You could let me out now. This is my church, and I can always find my way home from here.’”
God’s grace is like this. There is no place in life to which you could travel which would cause God to say, “You can’t get there from here.” Granted, God’s GPS may indicate that you have a long way to go to get home but for all who are willing to turn and repent, God is always willing to recalibrate. May God ever grant us ears that listen to divine directions and hearts that are quick to turn when we get off course.