I hang out a bit with a group called Truefaced. One of their leaders, John Lynch, has co-authored a book called The Cure. He tells a great story about a fork in the road.
We all hit a fork in the road, at least once in our lives. It often comes without warning. There you are, walking along in your journey through life, and whatever you’ve been doing, it’s been working for you. But next thing you know the road forks. Maybe you’re mad, maybe not, but whatever else is going on, you have to choose a direction. Which way will you go? Left or right?
Well, as Lynch tells it, the sign says that if you go to the left, you’ll find the room of good intentions. If you go to the right, you’ll find the room of grace. You don’t need long to decide. To begin with, you don’t really understand grace, so you think, “I have no idea what lies in that direction. Not a good choice!” Besides, that road doesn’t look very well traveled.
The road to good intentions looks really well traveled. Obviously everyone is going that way. Plus, we like good intentions! So that’s the road you choose.
When you arrive, the lobby is pretty crowded. A woman greets you and says, “Welcome to the room of good intentions. How are you today?” Well, you’ve been feeling pretty confused about life, especially since running into that fork in the road. “I’m feeling a bit confused,” you say.
When you do that, she gets this weird, scared look on her face. You can see that she doesn’t know how to handle your answer. In fact, that crowded room gets pretty quiet. Everybody comes to a stop, and they all look over at you, staring at you. And you realize something creepy. They’re all wearing masks, masquerade ball masks, with fake smiley faces. They all wear the same look. They all smile the same smile. And they don’t know how to react to you.
The woman who greeted you slips you a mask. “Just put that on,” she advises. So you do. You put it on and you tell everybody, “I’m fine.”
“I’m fine.” This is all you say, because you realize that this is all that anyone wants to hear.
Eventually you go to your room. And guess what? You feel really weird in your room. Your bed is there, but it’s piled high with your sin. On the other side of all that sin is Jesus. Every day you work hard and you try to remove your sin, but every day, there’s even more sin piled on that bed. You keep trying to remove your sin, but you can’t. How are you ever going to get to God?
You start to feel bad about yourself. You start to feel like you’re not worthy. Look at all that sin and shame. You’ll never get it cleared away. He’s never going to like you.
After trying as long and as hard as you can, you quit. You’re out. You’re drained. So you leave. Despite your good intentions – no, your very best intentions – you have failed.
Back out on the road, you see that there are a lot of people living on the wayside. Like you, they are drained. They are tired. But they are afraid to try that other room, the room of grace. They don’t understand grace, so all they can think is that they don’t want to be let down again. So they just camp out where they are, families and everything. They are nomads, hanging out on the side of the road, too burned out to try again. It was the room of good intentions that burned them out. They could never be who they thought God wanted them to be. They couldn’t add up!
You don’t want to end up like them, so you go back to the fork in the road. But this time, you go to the right. You walk that road to the room of grace, and you walk in. A woman greets you, and you ask her, “How are you?” And she says, “Meh. I’ve had better days. How are you?”
You reply, “Um, fine?”
And she looks at you and says, “You don’t sound fine.”
“Well,” you say, “I’m confused. And I’m so tired. And I’m afraid I can’t add up.”
“I’m not worthy,” you say. “I don’t think God will ever like me.”
And she hears all of that and smiles, and then says, “Welcome home!”
Next time, I’ll tell you what the room of grace feels like. See you Thursday.