I had a thought the other day that there are at least two ways that we can get off the main road of life and get diverted. One way is like a detour. While on the main road, either something catches our interest or something in the road forces a change in plans. Detours can take us around problems or give us time to explore areas we have never had time to stop and see. Detours may slow down our trip, but they at least keep us moving in the same direction toward our final destination. Most often, detours merge us back in to the main road a little further down the road.
A second way we can get off track however is a “dead-end.” This is usually a result of a decision we make. We decide to get off the main road because we are tired, we are bored, or we see something that captures our attention, but then we find ourselves in a place in which we are stuck. Unlike detours, there is dead-ends off no movement toward our destination or goal. Dead-ends can last a few days, a few weeks, months or even years. The longer we are stuck in a dead-end, the more numb or hopeless we might become. We may regret our original departure from the main road, resent others who seem to be going somewhere, or just settle in the comfort of the predictability of our dead-end, but often something deep within us calls us out and reminds us that our lives were meant for more than this.
What am I to do if I find myself at a dead-end?
First, remember the main goal and destination of the original journal. I do not think that most people start out on a journey hoping to land at a dead-end. Remember, re-envision, re-kindle, and start talking about the goal and the destination. What did you set out to live for? What are you deepest hopes and dreams? Was there ever a time when you sensed a purpose or a calling? Remembering the goal and destination of our journey can thrust us forward to finding the way back.
Secondly, remember that the main road is still there and to get back there you may need to retrace the road you took that led to a dead-end. This can be difficult for us emotionally. Travelling back the dead-end road; having to look at the mistakes, the hurts, the bad decisions that led us down this dead-end road forces us to acknowledge our limitations, our imperfections, and our messy lives. We cannot get back on the road by ourselves, we need God.
Most importantly, turn around and head back to the main road; accept the grace and forgiveness offered by God in Jesus Christ and know that God’s greatest desire is to get you and all people on the road that leads to life that is abundant and lasting. This is the meaning of “repentance” in the Bible. It is not simply feeling sorrowful and depressed over our mistakes and mess-ups, rather it involves turning around from the our self-centered decisions to go our own way and do our own thing and focus instead on the road that God has set before us and ways he has called us to live on the journey (Mark 1:4; Like 5:32; Acts 2:38).
At the beginning of another year and another semester, perhaps there are some detours and dead-ends in all of our lives that can come to an end as we get back on track. What will it take to get you back on track this year?