Wednesday, October 8, 2014
31 Days of Courage: The Courage to Turn Back
“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power' --or else not.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Math is another country to me. Those who love it wax rhapsodically about the beauty of its logic and the perfection of its forms.
To all that I say poppycock.
Especially I say “don’t be mixing my letters with my numbers”. But math does have a way of telling the truth straight out. If you fumble half way through a problem, in fact if you turn wrong at any point, you will not get where you want to go until you go back, figure out what went awry, and make it right.
When I was in my 20’s and working for a TV show for children called Reading Rainbow, I travelled a lot to interesting locations. We would shoot for several days or weeks at one place or another, with an entourage of production people and props.
On one of my first location shoots at the ripe old age of 21, we were shooting a scene on the Delaware River to highlight a sweet little book called “Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe.” At one point the director asked me to move some towels off of some rocks in the river that were messing up a shot. So I carefully waded in, on somewhat slippery footing, and grabbed an armful of some sunbather's stuff to move to another rock.
All well and good, until I saw a watch that was in the clump drop and sink into the bottom of the river. Lost, swept away, gonzo.
And I told no one.
Later, the owner of said watch approached me and asked if I had seen what turned out to be an heirloom time piece. I cringe to this day when I think of how I denied ever seeing it.
I was afraid I would lose my job, afraid I’d be thought a fool, afraid, afraid, afraid.
For months after that, the lady with the watch would call our office asking for compensation. And finally, after the agony of my lie outdid the agony of my fear, I turned back. I went back to fix the part of the equation where I messed up. I went in to my bosses, told the whole truth, offered to pay for the watch, and repented of the whole ugly mess.
I didn’t lose my job, and I didn’t even have to pay for the watch. My company reimbursed that longsuffering woman, and mercy was given to me.
The point here, though, is that it takes courage to make a U-turn. A body in motion does tend to stay in motion, and so it’s hard to turn around even when you’ve got a bad feeling you’re headed the wrong way.
Perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship that really needs to end. Or an apology long overdue. There are complete mindsets that must be questioned…where we must turn around and go back to where we should have made a left and instead made a right. These painful trudges back to the place of decision will ultimately lead us to discover the correct sum. But we won’t get there without turning back.
On its face turning back sounds like it would be the cowardly thing to do. Would the Apostle Peter think so? He had to turn back from his devastating decision in order to move forward and become one of the church’s greatest heroes. Imagine if he wallowed in his mistake, and continued down the apparently safe road of denying Christ? But Peter did turn around, and because he did he still speaks with authority and grace to all of us, lo these two thousand years later.
He couldn’t go forward until he turned back.
Somehow every member of my family got the math gene except me. Those crazy “radicals” my son is studying in Algebra 2 with Trigonometry might as well be written in Swahili. If I never understand the joy some folks get from cosigns, it won’t matter in the long run. But it will matter a great deal if I’m unwilling to turn around when I’ve got it wrong somewhere in the grand scheme of things.
The theological word for all this turning is repentance. About that I can wax poetic til they figure out the last number in pi.
And when we turn back, The Great One promises to be merciful to us, and not to keep a record of our sins and wrong turnings as if He were some miserly accountant with a chip on his shoulder.
His Son paid the debt, we get the grace.
That’s what you call divine math.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,