The first weekend of March 2014 brought about some sad experiences because of two unrelated and different drivers in various parts of the state driving on the wrong side of the road and going in the wrong direction. Lives were lost and others sustained severe injuries in addition to the physical destruction that took place. One who was killed was a young student at William Carey University. According to the authorities, early on Sunday morning a drunk driver was traveling the wrong way when he hit the student’s car and seriously injured his wife.
There are a number of reasons why people can get on the highway traveling in the wrong direction. They may be traveling through the area and not be familiar with the traffic patterns. They could be on medication, suffering from some mental confusion, or they could be on drugs or drinking. If you have ever been traveling down the road and suddenly saw a vehicle coming your way on the wrong side, you know that immediately your thoughts are charged with fear and uncertainty of what the driver is going to do and even more importantly what you can do to get out of the way.
Sadly, as I heard of these incidents over that weekend I thought of some wonderful people who I had the privilege of being their pastor and was a part of the grief and loss as they were killed under the same circumstances. Unfortunately, people getting on the wrong side of the road takes place more often than we might realize. To be honest, sometimes it is us on the wrong side. Recently I was driving in one of our Mississippi towns that had just in the past few years changed their traffic patterns to a number of one way streets in their downtown section. I knew the town well but I did not know of the changes. As I turned on a street and started down the block, I noticed that there were cars parked on both sides of the road and all of the cars were facing my way.
Looking farther down that same road, I saw a car coming toward me in my lane, the right lane. I realized I was on a one way street though I had not seen any sign. I probably was not going 15 miles an hour. I blinked my lights quickly and pulled over as far as I could to the right until I could find a place to turn around. The person coming toward me was not going fast either. He slowed down, pulled over in the other lane, and I waved at him and tried to express my apologies. Within a hundred feet or so I was able to turn around and go the right way.
Getting on the wrong side of the road takes place far more often when we are not in a car or truck, and we start going the wrong way. No doubt many of you are familiar with the fact that one of the significant words for sin in the New Testament literally means to miss the mark, take the wrong road, or be going the wrong way. In fact, that is what sin is. It is getting in the lane that goes in the direction contrary to God’s direction. Whether we see it in Scripture or in our daily activities in our society, it can be a frightening and destructive thing.
You begin to wonder what happens to us and what goes wrong with our relationships. What creates these disturbances in our families? What ruins the friendships that we enjoy? What disrupts our churches? What creates all of the conflict and hurt in our nation? What is it that erupts in destruction, war, and hatred between nations? When you realize that every one of us at some time or other may decide that we will take a turn that goes the wrong way, you begin to understand. It can result in death, and at other times it results in serious misunderstandings. Sometimes it just creates deep emotional trauma that stays with us potentially for a lifetime.
Can you imagine how our decisions to get on the wrong roads of life and travel down them must bring pain to the heart of God? At times we willingly disobey Him and head off down the road that we want to travel at 70 miles an hour. He knows that the further we go the more tragic it can become. He knows what it can do to us, and He fully understands what our decisions can do to the hearts and lives of those around us. It sounds terribly simplistic and almost unrealistic for us to say that the problem in our world is sin, yet the fact is that sin is the problem in our world. All of us choose to go down the path that we want rather than going in the direction that He has outlined for us. Still in the midst of all of the chaos, confusion, and hurt that we may bring about, He loves us. He wants us to choose the right road.
In Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount He said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). When a person takes the wrong road, he is suddenly facing the danger and destruction that it can bring to his own life but that is not all because he is affecting everyone else that he meets on the road. Some he may know and others may be total strangers and yet his decision affects all of them. Beyond just those he sees and meets on his wrongly chosen path are those who hear about where he has gone and what he has done. The waves of disappointment, destruction, death, and sorrow seem to spread across the emotional landscape of his life and yet, our great God still loves us and points us in the right direction.
Thanks be to God that He still loves us and reaches out to us at times, amazingly protecting us and at other times reclaiming us from the network of folks traveling in the wrong direction. What can we do in a world that is plagued with all of these kinds of wrongs? We can trust God and ask Him to keep us on the right road and traveling in the right direction. We need Him every moment to steer us through a maze of others who may not want to travel in the same direction we are supposed to go. We must trust Him even when things seem to be so tragically wrong that He is able to bring about good out of the brokenness. If you wonder whether that can ever be, you only need to look at the cross, the tomb, and the empty grave. God reached down in love and power and said, “Because Jesus lives, you can live also.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.