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John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

November 22, 2000

Wrong Turns

There was traffic trouble somewhere nearby, I knew that. As I took my son to school on the way to work, I could see two helicopters hovering overhead. But I had just missed the radio traffic report, so I didn't know what or where the problem was.

After dropping off my son, I decided to take my usual 18-mile route to work (gold on the map). But when I got to Rt. 1 at 7:25, traffic was snarled.

"Probably an accident up ahead a couple of miles," I thought.

So, without checking the radio traffic report, and with confidence in my own knowledge of the local road system, I second-guessed the situation, turned around (purple) and decided to take Rt. 32 to I-95 instead.

There was just one problem. The traffic mess was on I-95 at Rt. 32. I couldn't even get to the ramp at the interchange.

"No problem," I thought. "I'll just get on Rt. 29 instead."

That would have worked, except for one thing. Everyone else had the same bailout plan. Rt. 29 looked a lot worse than Rt. 1. And traffic was snarled heading back the other way on Rt. 32.

So I continued west. "I'll just keep going out to Rt. 108, and somehow double back on the side roads," I thought.

Funny how the couple of miles from 29 to 108 seemed especially long that morning. It was giving me a lot of time to think about how this wasn't turning out like I'd planned. I began wishing I'd taken my lumps on Rt. 1.

I made the turn onto 108, went about a mile, and then stopped. I had no choice. Traffic was at a standstill ahead of me as far as I could see. No one was going anywhere.

I still hadn't moved 10 minutes later. I looked at the dashboard clock. It was 8:00 a.m., the time I should have been starting work in College Park.

It suddenly hit me that I was at a dead stop in a line of cars headed in the wrong direction, about 20 miles further away from College Park than I was when I started out that morning. How had I gone so wrong?

I hadn't made one huge mistake—I'd made a bunch of little ones. They were based on things like arrogance, impatience, self-reliance and a failure to check in with someone who knew better.

Coming in sequence, each of them took me further away from where I should have been. And the further away I got, the more I justified my actions, and the harder it was to admit my mistake, turn around, and face reality. It took 10 minutes of going nowhere in the wrong direction to get me back on track.

Sometimes God makes it clear to us that he wants us to travel a certain path. As sin-marred humans, we have the tendency to amend his instructions, hurry them, take detours, embellish or subtract from what we hear. Sometimes we even run in the opposite direction like Jonah and deceive ourselves that we're doing what God wants.

It's so easy to do. Each step away from the path is so small. Then God wakes us up and we discover we're stuck in the traffic headed to Olney. That's when we need to take stock, confess, repent, and get back to the path God's set out for us.

As soon as the car ahead of me moved a few feet forward, I turned around on Rt. 108 and drove back the way I came. It was extremely slow going. But it was the right thing to do. And it gave me plenty of time to ask forgiveness for the times I've gotten off track with my Father.

That's time well spent, if you ask me.