While on vacation, we drove by a little church out in the rolling hills near New Market, Virginia. The sign out front read: God allows U-Turns. Profound statement, right? So many times, the roads we travel upon are marked with all kinds of restrictions - U-Turns being one of them. Isn't it good to know in God's grace, he allows U-Turns? Sometimes we don't pay as close attention to the things God tells us to, getting ourselves down a road or two which just don't "fit" the plan as well as we'd hoped. When we find ourselves traveling in the wrong direction, I wonder if we are bold enough to do a U-Turn? When the road is wide and no traffic seems to be coming, this seems a whole lot easier, does it not? But...get a little bit more traffic, take that road down to a two lane narrow passageway, with no shoulder or "wiggle room", and you might find a U-Turn a little more difficult. Why? Maneuvering room is limited! This is the way it is sometimes - we get ourselves on paths which allow very little maneuvering room! When we need to make a U-Turn, we find ourselves almost hesitant because the room needed is not always apparent to us.
You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG)
Why do we find ourselves requiring the U-Turn in the first place? Isn't it because we either missed something we intended to find in the first place, or we totally went the wrong way? Considering the two reasons for U-Turns, I guess we'd do well to avoid both - so why don't we? In the first instance, it is because we weren't paying close attention and something we were aiming for totally got missed along the way. In the second, we just made bad "turns" in life. Both are equally as frustrating - but the most frustrating part is how long it takes for us to find we missed our mark in the first place! Once we get that figured out, then we have to find the "appropriate" place in the road we are on where we figure we can make a "successful" U-Turn maneuver. Did you ever notice how hard those are when you are looking to make one? There just doesn't seem to be the right spot - so we find ourselves traveling just a little bit further out of our way because we need "maneuvering" room.
Paul makes the assumption we are all paying close attention. To that I just have to say, "Yeah, right!" For most of us, we get to the destination, not because we paid close attention, but because God's grace "looped us around" to where we needed to be! We get good instructions, sometimes moment by moment, like from our little GPS units on the car. But...if we are at all distracted by the plethora of choices we have to choose from at certain intersections, it is easy to bear right, just not far enough right! We find ourselves going in the wrong direction because the directions were good, we just didn't follow them to the "t".
Paul also makes it very clear we don't have any room for excuses. God makes a way for U-Turns, but it is quite clear in scripture he leaves no room for excuses when we need to make them. It is part of growing up to own up to our mistakes and to admit we have been going the wrong way or just plain not paying attention. It is also part of growing up to recognize the U-Turn doesn't really require all that much maneuvering room. Even in the tightest of spaces, it is possible. It may not be easy, but it is possible! This holds true when we need to make life changes which aren't easy. What we fail to recognize is what the sign says: God ALLOWS U-Turns. He has already made "provision" for the U-Turn! It is already "mapped out" for us - we just need to listen to his voice carefully as to when, where, and how to accomplish it!
God's grace provides the "maneuvering room". It also provides the "instruction" to help us through the turn. It is like he is out there directing the turns in our lives - hand signals carefully directing us into those tight and uncomfortable maneuvers which will get us back on track again. Conduct changes because there is a course change. Plain and simple. Conduct does not change because we stay on the wrong course, or completely ignore all the stops put in our path. In fact, conduct goes from bad to worse whenever we ignore the advice to make the U-Turn! A U-Turn is really a 180 degree turn. You head from where you are going into the completely opposite direction. This is the definition of repentance in scripture - a "180".
To maneuver is to take the action to change direction. Therefore, a U-Turn is really a series of actions which change the direction of our lives. Repentance is often a series of actions which completely and radically change the direction of our choices. Considering this, maybe it is time we accept the wisdom of the words: God ALLOWS U-Turns. Just sayin!