I take a certain smug self-satisfaction in ignoring the instructions from the GPS when making my way through the neighborhood at the beginning of a trip.
‘Lady Garmin’ typically suggests that I ‘zig’…but I often decide to ‘zag’ instead—basing my choice on personal experience of traffic patterns, the timing of stop-lights, and so on. ‘I know best,’ I tell myself. ‘I’ve got this part all figured out.’
And ‘Lady Garmin’ doesn’t seem to mind, not much anyway. When I deliberately make a wrong turn…she simply intones ‘Recalculating.’ Within a moment or two, our relationship is repaired…and the journey continues toward its destination.
If only all our wrong choices were that easy to fix.
I thought about that yesterday, as I was sharing in a small group with an inmate at a prison in southern Illinois. The inmate (let’s call him Joe) told us about a deep hurt in his own life—one that his choices set into motion, and that is now impossible to fix. He’s incarcerated for having been a drug dealer. A bad choice, yes…but a reasonably effective way for him to have been earning a living in his home town.
He had it all figured out, you see: He was just putting a little food on the table, by helping his customers get high. Is there any real harm in that? But one day, a destitute client stopped by—determined to make a score, but without the means to pay. Things got ugly, and Joe’s innocent young nephew was killed, caught in the crossfire.
Joe is not in prison because of that crime, but he knows now that in some sense he is responsible for it. He’s done some recalculating. He’s come to realize how the connections in his life extend beyond satisfying his own needs.
As I was listening to Joe tell his story, I thought about how often I’ve cut corners, too. How many times I’ve rationalized about my sinfulness…how hard I’ve worked to convince myself that my bad choices or selfish decisions didn’t hurt anybody but myself.
It’s not really that simple, is it? Our call is to love…and when we fail to love…it diminishes Christ’s presence in the world.
In today’s gospel reading, we hear Jesus telling a story designed to make that point:
‘What man among you—having a hundred sheep and losing one of them—would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?’
As I heard those words this morning, I considered the equation rumbling in my own heart: What sense does it make to abandon the 99…to go after the one? And yet, that is precisely what Jesus proposes. It’s as if he desires to teach us to look at the world through a different set of eyes. He’s saying God’s math is not the same as our math. And we may not have everything all figured out, after all.
So perhaps we would do well today if we were to meditate on Jesus’ words…and spend a little time ‘Recalculating…’