In October of 2004, our family moved from Seattle, Washington to Grand Rapids, Michigan. We made that trip in 2 vehicles; Deborah drove our Saturn sedan along with two children and one cat and I drove a 26-foot moving truck that contained all of our possessions, along with one dog. On the final night before arriving in Grand Rapids, we were to stop in Madison, Wisconsin...or at least the outskirts of Madison. Now, it may be hard to believe, but this was before smart phones were ubiquitous and our cell phones were just plain ol' phones that didn't even have turn-by-turn navigation on them! And so I was doing my best to follow directions that AAA had printed out for me...on PAPER! <gasp!> It had been a long day, it was well after dinner, and it was dark. Deborah was following me and somewhere between the highway off-ramp and the hotel, I took a wrong turn. We had already been in a somewhat rural area, but we soon ended up in an extremely rural area! Think 2-lane narrow road; farmland; no streetlights. As much as I hated to admit it, it was very clear that we were not on the right path! And so, I had to do something I dreaded: turn around a 26-foot moving truck on a narrow road, in the dark, without getting it stuck in a ditch. (Did I mention it had rained earlier that day too??) You've heard of a 3-point turn? I executed something more like a 12-point turn that night. It STILL gives me a stomach ache!
We don't follow a strict liturgical calendar at Berean, but many of you are probably aware that Lent started this week. Lent is the 40-day period before Easter, and it begins with Ash Wednesday. Some of the practices from ancient Christianity have witnessed a resurgence in recent years, so it's possible that you might even have seen some people with ash on their foreheads, often in the shape of a cross. Traditionally, this practice symbolizes repentance. And whether or not you choose to wear ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday, the reality is that the Christian walk does frequently call us to repentance. Now true repentance really involves two things: First, it involves recognizing that we're on the wrong course. But if that's ALL we do, it really isn't repentance! Can you imagine if Deborah and I had recognized that we were on the wrong road in rural Wisconsin, and then not actually DONE anything about it?? We might still be out there somewhere, turned to a life of cheese making!
And so, while recognition of being on the wrong path is certainly necessary, the second and more critical element of repentance comes when we make the necessary course correction. In fact, that's really what the word means: to change one's mind and/or to change direction. Sometimes that course correction might seem difficult...even scary. But when the Holy Spirit convicts us of being on the wrong path, NOT making the correction borders on insanity. With or without ashes, don’t give up on the practice of repentance in your Christian life. Just recognizing that you're on the wrong course isn't enough...you're going to have to turn the truck around!
- Pastor Paul