Do you remember “driving” when you were a little kid? Sometimes when we (my brothers and I) were on our way home from school or a baseball game, Mom would let us sit in her lap and hold the steering wheel. Before you worry about your safety, you should know that this was down the small, pretty much empty road to our neighborhood. (You can breathe easy.) She was controlling the pedals (and secretly the steering wheel), but WE were the ones driving. That’s what we’d say if you asked us anyway. But I wasn’t really driving, was I? Because I just had my hands on the steering wheel. Ultimately, I didn’t have any true control. It was all an illusion.
Who really has the control in my life? Your life? Are we the ones driving, making it look like God is? Or is God actually the One with His hands on the wheel and His foot on the pedal? Is He directing where we should go?
If you sit for a few minutes, you can probably think of many Scriptures related to the words “path” or “way.” Here are a few I thought of:
- In the Old Testament, we read Solomon’s advice (you know…the one always plastered on anything sold for graduation): Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- When Thomas asked how to get where Jesus was going, Jesus replied: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
- John the Baptist knew and believed this before many people did. In fact, his whole life was designed to proclaim this truth to those around him. He lived in the wilderness, crying out to all who would listen: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3)
- When Jesus came, He said, “…narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14)
Based on these, it looks like Jesus is the path, and my focus must remain upon Him. Sounds simple enough, right? But what happens to the straight and narrow when I step in? When I think my sin has more power than my God?
The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 (NKJV)
The way that was straight becomes twisted (the exact opposite of its design). Another translation says:
When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 (ESV)
Ever been there? Ever been angry at God for the poor decisions you’ve made? If I look to myself, I will take the long, broken way home. I will often ruin the relationship that is meant to make me whole. I will rage against the Lord. (And let’s be honest, who thinks they have what it takes to fight with God?)
I know from experience that this crooked path has turns filled with regret and shame and hopelessness. All the while, God has the ability to make the way straight. He can smooth our rough edges and create the most direct path to Himself. He always extends love in the midst of our foolishness. We are never beyond His grace.
Take, for example, the prodigal son. He wasted all of his father’s inheritance, believing it would make him happy. You know what? It didn’t. It left him empty, and hungry.
But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Luke 15:17
The boy didn’t even have enough for some bread at the end of his foolishness. So where did he go? Back to his father. After chasing things that he believed would make him whole, he returned to what he knew actually would. His father was already waiting for him–ready to meet him with open arms. While he was accepted and celebrated, I can’t help but think that he was filled with regret…with “if only’s,” and “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.” Because that’s how I feel when I go back to God after meddling in my own foolishness.
But here’s the beautiful, hard truth: I don’t have to live a curvy life of contradictions. I don’t have to live with the shame, regret, and hopelessness attached to my poor decisions. It’s a choice. I can actually choose to trust God when it’s inconvenient and illogical (from a human perspective). I can trust Him with ALL of my heart in ALL of my ways, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. And if I do this, if I am fully surrendered to God, it will all work out for good.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit…And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:1, 28
But if I am surrendered to God, I don’t have the luxury to pick and choose which areas of my life He gets to control. He either gets all of it or none of it. That’s a tough pill to swallow if you still believe that you know better than God. In John 6, Jesus spoke some hard truth like this to a large crowd. He told them that He was the bread of life (the only One who could ever truly satisfy), and to live, they must feed upon Him. “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'” (John 6:60) And after that, many stopped following Him.
Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” John 6:67-69
I have to come to believe and know that Jesus is the Son of the LIVING God. He alone has the words of eternal life. There is nowhere else for me to go, no other path to take. I can twist my way and listen to my own foolishness, but I always end up in the same place–running back to my Father, begging for grace and another chance. When I come to my senses, I realize that all along I was running from the only One who could ever make my crooked way straight.