The journey home is never too long.
Do you ever feel you have become the worst version of yourself?
I can relate to that thought, pulled from a scene in "You've Got Mail." It's that moment where I sit quietly in disbelief over a decision I just made and wonder how I let myself get to that point. It's the moment where the hardest thing to do is to look at myself in a mirror.
I've faced failure in life. At times it's something like a bad grade, a poor performance at work or a disappointment that may not have even been in my control. Those have been hard to take; they've left their mark.
Other times, it's a failure on a more personal level — the words I can't take back, the lie I told, the poor judgment shown, the temptation I give in to. Those are the failures that truly scar. They're the ones that make me lay awake asking the "what ifs" — What if I hadn't done this or that? Would my life be different? Have I ruined my chance for happiness in this life?
And that reminds me of a movie....
The musical "Bombay Dreams" centers on Akaash, a young man living in the slums of India. He lives there with his family and friends, and while they have practically nothing, they get by because they have each other.
Akaash dreams constantly of making it to Bollywood, India's major film industry, and he spends parts of his day working on his acting and fighting skills, just so he is prepared to take on the next major action role should he be given the opportunity. Despite the impracticality of his dream, Akaash's loved ones always support him and encourage him. They're a close group, and they're always there for one another, regardless of the circumstances.
One day, a lawyer and his fiancée, Priya, visit the slum to tell them that it's about to be demolished. As Akaash and his friends talk to the couple about how they can save their meager home, they find out that Priya's father is a successful Bollywood director. Akaash decides that if she can get him a meeting with her father, he could achieve his dream and make enough money to help rescue his loved ones from the slums.
Eventually Akaash gets his chance on screen. He makes his money, finds his fame, and ends up dating the most beautiful and popular actress in Bollywood. But it changes him, and he begins to forget where he came from. He loses sight of home. And one night a friend comes to visit him in his mansion to tell him that their slums, their homes, are about to be destroyed. When Akaash angrily refuses to help, his friend leaves heartbroken and in tears.
After that, Akaash sits there alone, and suddenly realizes that he has truly become the worst version of himself. He had hurt and betrayed the ones who had always stood by him. He had sold out that which was most important. He realizes that in pursuing his dreams, he had turned his back on what's really important. He runs back home, and helps rescue his friends, his family, and his true home from being destroyed.
When I look at the parable The Prodigal Son, or the real life stories of the many biblical characters who failed in some of the worst ways possible, I always find myself looking to the fact that they repented. Of course, that's great.
I need to remind myself, though, not to overlook the fact that repentance was not the first step they had to take to begin their recovery. Rather, the first step was recognition. King David needed the prophet Nathan to tell him of the sin he had committed. And in the simple illustration of Akaash, he needed a friend to show him just how far he had fallen.
When faced with failure, the road to recovery can't be taken until I first recognize that I need to recover in the first place. So in those painful moments of realizing what I've just done, it's important that I take heart in the fact that feeling that emotion of regret in the first place is a major part of the battle in overcoming my failure.
After some of life's breakdowns, it's tempting to throw in the towel on what the future holds. Sometimes I think that we've messed up so badly, that God will never be able to use me to do any good. That thought, though, warns me that I'm seriously underestimating the redemptive power of Christ.
When I look at the stories of the Bible, I have the benefit of seeing the big picture. I can read the story of Peter and realize that God restored him after he denied knowing Jesus, and that Peter went on to do many great things. But in having that big picture, I fail to see that Peter didn't know that at the time. In the midst of his greatest meltdown, he didn't know that he'd recover. He felt the same doubt, the same regret, and the same heartache that I do when I fail.
When using a GPS system, you enter in your starting point and your ending point, and the unit will calculate the best route and provide turn-by-turn directions. But what happens when you miss a turn? Does the voice decide you're clearly going to do your own thing and just let you drive aimlessly? Does it tell you to stop the car and find someone else who knows how to drive? No, it simply recalculates the directions based on your new location, and finds a new way to get you to the same final destination.
My sister, Naomi, drew an insightful conclusion from the example of a GPS system: Doesn't God's direction for our lives work the same? When we go off the road He has planned for us, or when we miss a turn that He wants us to take, He doesn't give up on us. He creates a different way for us to get to the same destination.
We all fail. Many times miserably. But in that heartbreaking moment when we realize we've become the worst version of ourselves, God will use that realization to restore us and direct us back to the right path. As Akaash sings as he recognizes his failure, "The journey home is never too long." Thank God, I've found that to be true.
Copyright 2008 Nathan Zacharias. All rights reserved.