Right Turn Must Turn Right

riding a bike

An enthusiastic cyclist reflected, "Whenever I watch someone learning to ride a bike for the first time, I’m reminded that it’s not easy balancing yourself on those two narrow wheels. It takes time. It takes practice." His advice for learners included (a) watch the road before you, (b) keep your mind on your destination, and (c) keep pedaling. "Staying balanced," he explained, "is all about moving forward."  He might have included an additional caution: read and obey the road signs.

For 7-day Christians, keeping our lives balanced can seem as hard and hazardous as riding a bike in traffic. Eyes straight, destination straight, forward momentum. Staying balanced and moving forward can be difficult in an almost-post-pandemic world.

Mixed Messages

Passing an intersection, I noticed a stop sign on the same post with a sign reading "No stopping at any time." How do we keep moving forward safely?

Conflicting manipulation is endemic in human experience. But today 7-day Christians face a set of challenges particular to the 2020s. For example, the vast army of vendors with things to sell  has an arsenal like none in history. In this era, sometimes called "techno-captivity,"  advertisers learn not only what we have bought, but what we have looked at—when, how often, and how long. They know what  sites we visit, thus what we are interested in and what we want to know. And they trade our data. We obviously have conflicting signs on our posts.

Those entrapped long term by the avalanche of products they are "bullied" into desiring may be  diagnosed with "compulsive buying disorder."  JP Lepeley, after a career with top-level tech advertisers, admitted that the products and services of the tech culture are contrary to "internal moral values," with "no respect for a person's privacy, feelings, or dreams."

If I were approaching the conflicting sign post, I would recall another sign I've seen: "Right lane must turn right." I would turn quickly and steer toward an intersection where the right destination would be easier to find. Life choices can also require a right turn—onto the route that will help us see past confusing temptations toward where we really want and need to go.

Our advising cyclist, worldwide Christian leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf, suggested that our ultimate objective should be to "follow the Way of Our Master, Jesus Christ," which should "remain constant and consistent, whoever we are and whatever else is happening in our lives." Doing this is often difficult, and our efforts must come "from our heart and soul."

Fake People

I once noticed a sign in a store window announcing "Store closing."  On the front door was another sign: "Now hiring." Miscommunication? Or perhaps assumption that people see what they want to see. Bargain shoppers would notice the upcoming clearance; job seekers would head for the front door.

Actors and athletes have long endorsed everything from toothpaste to sugary cereals, so most of us ignore irrelevant people. But many are drawn by "extended peer groups"—reviews of products, praise of doctors or plumbers, recommendations for books, movies etc.—by fake people, "calculated to manipulate."  Statistics representing positive rankings are easy to exaggerate or fake entirely. Some advertisers employ fakers to make up fake names, with appropriate home towns or occupations.

Even children are targeted, as child peers who participate on children's television programs open boxes to show and demonstrate toys to persuade children to beg their parents to buy the attractive items.

An experienced practitioner has warned, "Technology is useful as a servant, but it is a tyrant as patron. It's time to ask yourself who's in charge of the relationship."  Trust the real peers you know are following the road to the destination you know is right, not fake peers invented to pull you (or your children) away.

Nature's Challenges

Another favorite sign reads "Caution. Water on road during rain." A head start on climate change, perhaps.

Recalling brutal weather, I remember the grandmother of my friend Sheri Dew. Sheri was led onto the right road at the age of eight, when her grandmother told her, "Jesus Christ is our Savior" and when you know this, "your life can never be the same."

Sheri's grandmother was not describing a comfortable life. Homesteading a farm in Kansas, she survived both the Dust Bowl and the Depression. "Some days the dust was so heavy that if farmer or livestock were caught in the fields, they suffocated for lack of oxygen." Their farm did not come through unscathed; but their faith did.

Granddaughter Sheri lives a very different life with the same faith. She is an author, publication executive, and leader of women and young adults worldwide. She has remained on the right road; she knows that Christ is our Savior, and her life has been a testimony of that knowledge.

Our lives as we're emerging from COVID restrictions are affected by serious climactic worries and violent natural disasters. No one suffocates in heavy dust, but many of our lives' necessities are reduced to splinters, ashes, floodwaters, and other disasters. Our economic challenges may not be labeled "Depression," but many of us struggle. Our daily reality includes violence at home and armed conflicts abroad.

Like the Dew family, we must keep moving forward, with faith that our loving Savior knows we are on the right road and wants to keep us there.

Routes in Desperate Places

Another unfortunate sign pair announced "Lodging next right" posted just above "State Prison." Tragically, some are forced into dangerous places to maintain their destination. Soul-searching dedication and sacrifice may be required. Consider Tito Momen, a Nigerian Muslim who converted to Christianity. He was rejected by his fiancée and disowned by his father; his mother suffered death by suicide. On trumped up charges, Tito was imprisoned in Egypt for 15 years, suffering vicious persecution that destroyed his health. But he knew his conversion had been the right turn, and his faith was the right road. By small miracles he was finally released from prison and received clemency in Ghana.

Many choose dangerous roads—leading to places, activities, entertainment, habits, lifestyles, relationships, and behavior contrary to Christian values. Some end up in lodgings they didn't intend. But those who are willing to change their road can redirect their destination. The Lord knows who they are and where they are; He reaches out to them. A friend of mine who is currently in a maximum security U.S. Prison described his efforts and his progress.

I made mistakes to end up where I am, but instead of turning from God I am trying to return to Him . . . . It's especially difficult in this environment, but lately I've been contemplating the incredibly personal nature of our relationship with God. Faith is required at every level. Not simply a faith that He can bless us and save us, but faith that He knows the best way to bless us and save us. When times get hard and I become discouraged, I pray for faith . . . and I continue forward.

I see [God's] love and kindness everywhere I look—even in this place that most would describe as "God forsaken."

Jeffrey R. Holland, a prominent Christian leader, reminded people like my friend that "we are children of the living God who loves us, who is always ready to forgive us, and who will never, ever forsake us." Those who seek forgiveness and guidance will receive these blessings.

Another respected Christian leader, Patrick Kearon, also comforted and encouraged those who suffer: "Jesus [will] give you power to not only survive but one day, through Him, to overcome and even conquer—to completely rise above the pain, the misery, the anguish, and see them replaced by peace."

Right roads can be unpredictable, uncomfortable, challenging, and discouraging, as well as beautiful, affirming and joyful. Because He loves us, God allows us to face the difficulties that He knows will make us stronger, wiser, and more capable—prepared for destinations He desires for all of us.

11/29/2022 11:04:46 PM
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  • Brad Wilcox
    About Brad Wilcox
    Brad Wilcox has lived in Ethiopia, Chile, New Zealand, and Spain; he and his family now make their home amid the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Brad taught sixth grade before obtaining his PhD in education. His contributions as an author and teacher have been honored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and his work has appeared in Guideposts magazine and Reader's Digest. He once served as a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America and has addressed thousands of youth and adults across the globe. He and his wife Debi have four children and nine grandchildren.