You have heard it said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” But I’m more convinced it is paved with bad directions. If Eve’s grave sin in the garden was a failure to follow God’s directions, her punishment has been putting up with Adam the rest of the way who refuses to stop and ask for directions! There is no need to linger too long on this point. We have all experienced the following scene:
Wife: “Honey, do you know where you’re going?” Husband (shocked): “Of course I do!” Wife: “Wasn’t that our exit back there?” Husband (to save face): “Oh, I’m taking a short-cut.“ Wife (an hour later!): “Maybe we should stop and ask for directions.” Husband (angry and offended): “Don’t you trust me?!”
How heated the conversation gets from here will depend on the particular couple. One thing is clear: Deep within the soul of every person is this prideful insistence upon going our own way, and the stubborn refusal to ask for help. As the proverb goes, “The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise” (Prov 12:15).
Particularly for us men, our very “manhood” is called into question by the very idea that we may be lost on life’s road. To humble our hearts and admit we are lost is to acknowledge our powerlessness and lack of control at that particular moment. The situation intensifies when there is a woman in the car. Then a man’s primal instinct to protect and lead her safely back to “the cave” takes over, and makes it even more humiliating to admit we have lost our way. It may be a stretch, but being asked, “Are you lost?” has about the same effect on a man, as the question, “Have you gained weight?” has on a woman! “These are fightin’ words!”
The same forces are at work when it comes to the spiritual journey. The Bible sums up the perennial problem in a single verse: “There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov 14:12; 16:25). In other words, my cleverly mapped out shortcut may in the end lead us both off a cliff. A wise man once said, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.” While the wisdom of Yogi Bera provides little help in this arena, the Bible proves to be much more user-friendly.
The wisdom books of the Bible refer to the two ways or roads one can travel in life. The first road is the way of the wicked that leads to destruction. “Do not enter the path of the wicked or walk in the way of those who are evil. Avoid it, do not go on it; turn away from it, and continue on” (Prov 4:14-15). It is a dead end. It is lined with orange signs that read, “Road Closed Ahead,” “Use Alternate Route.”
The second road is the way of wisdom and righteousness, and it leads to God’s eternal-kind-of-life. God’s Wisdom cries out in the streets, “I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road” (Prov 4:11 MSG). Isaiah declares, “There will be a highway called the Holy Road. No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road. It’s for God’s people exclusively—impossible to get lost on this road. Not even fools can get lost on it” (Isa 35:8). “The road the righteous travel is like the sunrise, getting brighter and brighter until daylight has come” (Prov 4:10). Or, again, “Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway” (Ps 119:35 MSG)!
Perhaps the first man in recorded history to pull over and ask for directions was the man we call “Doubting Thomas.” The story found in John 14 sounds a lot like a bunch of college kids planning a weekend get away at the Father’s cabin. Jesus, the ringleader, is going ahead of them to clean the cabin up, put things in order and buy groceries for their holiday celebration. Before he leaves, Jesus makes sure his friends all have directions to the cabin.
Jesus has talked about the cabin so often that he assumes they all know where it is and how to get there (14:4). But Thomas interjects, “Lord, we have no idea where you are going. How do you expect us to know the road” (14:5 MSG)? Perhaps a bit frustrated with their dullness of mind, Jesus tells them plainly: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father’s cabin without following me” (14:6).
If you want to get somewhere without getting lost, the surest way is to just follow closely behind someone who knows the way. You can write down directions, or keep a map nearby. But it is easier to just follow behind in a trustworthy caravan.
Christian discipleship is exactly that—mimicking Jesus’ every move. Doing what he does and saying what he says. Walking as he did. The surest way to keep one’s self on God’s Holy Road is to simply follow Jesus. And, there is no law against spiritual tailgating! The closer, the better.
Yet, in order to enter God’s Holy Road in the first place, some of us must first humble ourselves, take the next exit and ask for directions. Sometimes this first step will lead to an even bolder maneuver. We may need to make a spiritual U-turn on the road of life.