Today I was driving down the highway in my treasured minivan, my precious offspring tucked safely in the back, and together we traveled to enjoy a day of fun festivities. My life felt pretty darn perfect, and as I passed a certain area I saw a sign that took my back in time twenty years. I smiled as it flew into my rear view, and I smiled not so much at the memory it invoked, but of the promises it signified. Indeed, twenty years prior I had driven this road in tears, and I had cried out to God as I went. I had prayed for His direction, and I had begged for a sign. It just so happens He answered my petition for a sign with an actual sign, yet I’d still go my own way.
Let me try to explain rather than being vague. When I was nineteen I had been quite sure of the man I would marry, and though some of you may know my love story, I’m not sure if you’ve heard this particular detail. The love of my life had broken up with me, and being certain he was my future husband, I didn’t take the breakup well. I kept praying and praying for God to explain, and He just kept saying, “yeah, he’s the one.” At one point, while on this same highway some twenty years ago, I had asked God for a sign.
I said, “God, if he’s the one then give me a sign.”
God being the humorous God He is answered right when I asked, and two seconds after my uttered prayer I saw a sign on the side of the road bearing my love’s name. Naturally, every time I pass that sign nowadays I’m tickled at how the Lord directs our paths, but I’m also reminded of His goodness despite the missteps we may make. I’m reminded that even me, a woman who made about a billion serious mistakes, could be directed right where God would have me to be.
Twenty years ago I found myself young, uncertain, and heartbroken. I found myself struggling for answers and seeking them in the worst possible ways. I found myself running so far away from God’s will that I can’t believe I ever found my way back home again, and that was just for starters. Looking back on my past could be a cringe-worthy experience to say the very least, but if I’m honest it’s actually like looking at the life of someone I don’t even recognize. How I ever became so consumed by a life that wasn’t remotely close to being for me I’ll never understand, and the thoughts of those I hurt along the way makes me wince. Basically, if it’s listed in scripture as something to avoid then I probably partook with bells on, and my colored past still has a tendency to make me want to crawl into a hole.
Today as I drove I said to the Lord, “I know you can use every mistake I made, but I regret the things I did. If I could go back in time and change it all I would in a second.”
That’s the thing about past mistakes. God forgives you, easy, but forgiving yourself is a bit harder to obtain. And though the Lord has healed my heart for sure, I still wish I could undo all that wasted time. To be able to experience God’s goodness and joy for the extra decade I drank it away, that would be preferable in my mind. Yet He worked it out. And I guess that was the important part.
See, I couldn’t undo all the mistakes I had made. I couldn’t erase a decade of missteps and regrettable action, but I could be grateful that despite all my erroneous judgement God had gotten me right back where He intended. If it were up to me I would have gotten so lost and off track. In fact, I did, yet with God there’s no “point of no return.” God says you can always come back home, and He’ll somehow turn your mistakes around for His good.
Twenty years ago God gave me a sign. A literal sign, which I ignored. I not only ignored it; I ran so far in the opposite direction I should have been lost forever. But God! He brought me back home. He brought me back to the man He intended me to marry, and He brought me back into His loving arms. Despite my mistakes. It took over ten years, but I found my way.
It seems to me that no mess is too big for God to straighten out, no knot beyond what He can undo. There’s never too many mistakes for Jesus. He takes our mistakes and He uses them for His glory. He heals the broken-hearted, and He makes glad the tears of the mourning. He makes all things new, His grace wins every single time, His mercies spring forth brilliantly each morning. I don’t need a sign to know that’s true, but it certainly is a nice reminder.