One of my friends recently told me a story about an experience he had while driving through a construction zone on the interstate at night. For most of the trip, everything went fine. At one point though, as he was driving along, the traffic cones jutted really far out into his lane. Since the traffic pattern had changed several times along the way, he thought that once again, they were having him shift lanes, so he followed what he thought was the path he should take. However, shortly after making that decision, he found himself stuck in freshly-poured concrete. It seemed like he had done everything right. He followed what looked to be the correct path, but ultimately, found himself somewhere he shouldn’t be.
This morning as I was doing dishes, I got to thinking about his story. Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it? We’re traveling down the road, when all of the sudden we come up to a decision that has to be made immediately. We don’t have time to spend days in thought and prayer about it – we have to decide now. So we look at all the information we’re provided and make our decision.
A lot of the time we make the right choice, and we continue along the journey, usually not giving further thought to the decision we just made. Sometimes however, we make the wrong choice. Whether it’s a decision related to a relationship, a job, a friend, a purchase, or whatever – sometimes even though we evaluate the options, we still find ourselves stuck. Sometimes that means we’re a bit drug down by some mud, other times we’re bogged down like we were standing in concrete. Either way, it’s unpleasant, and we usually end up replaying the events leading up to the decision over and over in our minds, as if doing so could change things.
The cool thing is that, even when we make really bad decisions, God is able to redeem our choices. He is able to take those circumstances we find ourselves in and, even though He doesn’t necessarily reverse the effects of the choice, He is able to use that choice for His glory. Sometimes that’s through us being able to encourage someone else going through something similar. Sometimes that means being able to see His faithfulness, His love, His patience.
We have a big disadvantage when it comes to making choices, especially compared to God. We’re finite. We’re bound by time and space. We are only able to look at events from one perspective – the human one. We can’t see the big picture, we can’t see the future, we can’t see how all the ramifications of a decision play out in the months and years ahead. As Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 13:12a, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror…”
The central message of Christianity is that God is a God of restoration, of redemption. We were created in His image, perfect and blameless. Then sin entered the picture – we decided that, rather than following the path God had for us, we wanted to do things our way. That sin created a rift between us and God. However, that’s where Jesus comes in. Because He lived a perfect, sinless life, He was able to pay the penalties for our sins with His blood – by dying on the cross. That’s called grace. Through His grace, He is able to redeem our choices and restore our relationship with Himself.
We can’t do that ourselves. The best illustration I’ve ever seen of this involves a bucket of mud. If you place both of your hands in a bucket of mud and then use your hands to try to clean the mud off, you won’t be able to – you’ll just smear the mud around. You might be able to get some of it off, but in the end, you’ll still be covered in mud. It takes someone else with clean hands and a bucket of water to be able to get the mud off. Picture yourself in that situation. Look at your hands. The mud that covers them is the sin in our lives. Even though we try to be good, we can’t be good enough. We’re too muddy. When we allow Him to, Jesus comes into the picture. The blood He shed on the cross is the water He uses to wash the mud off. With His clean hands, He wipes the mud off of our hands.
We will make mistakes. We do make mistakes. We have made mistakes. Even with the best of intentions, we still make wrong choices. The cool thing is, even when we do, through Christ, God is able to redeem those choices and restore our relationship with Him. All we have to do is ask.