Lessons about sin from a disastrous commute

I thought I knew how to get home from work. At least I certainly should have. I never imagined where I was actually going to end up.

My family and I had just returned to a city we’d left five years before, and I was uncertain about my commute because we had moved to a new area. I used my GPS to get headed in the right direction until I knew where I was going; then I turned it off and headed to the new house.

While the drive down the interstate felt familiar, something was off. I didn’t remember taking a highway to our new home. I shrugged it off and kept going anyway.

I finally turned my GPS back on, and after all of that driving, it said I was still 30 minutes away. I took the next exit, ascended the off-ramp, and made a left. That’s when I realized it: I had correctly remembered the way home — to the house we’d lived in five years before. I couldn’t believe it.

Accidentally taking my old commute reminds me of how there’s always a risk for you and me to return to some of the spiritually unhealthy paths we’ve left behind. Our old sinful ways feel familiar, the habits come to us naturally and we don’t even know we’re headed back down the pathway of disobedience that we thought we’d left behind years ago.

Falling into sin isn’t something that happens overnight though. It’s usually a gradual journey that begins with little acts of resistance to the Holy Spirit. Maybe we share gossip in the name of asking people to pray about a situation. We exaggerate in a Facebook status update or we our envy an acquaintance on Instagram who seems to have it all. Maybe we read a salacious “news” article about a scantily clad celebrity. Perhaps we permit a bit of religious self-righteousness here — a little haughtiness there.

We keep heading in the wrong direction one mile at a time, not paying attention to where we’re going, doing what feels natural.

Scripture tells us to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9), which most of us are OK with. But then there’s the part that makes us uneasy: We’re supposed to confess our sins to one another and ask for prayer (James 5:16). I don’t know a lot of people who follow through on that one.

Maybe we excuse ourselves from confessing sin to others because there’s no one we trust or we’re a “private person.” The truth is that we all like to be “private” about our sins and that’s the point of confession: to get it out in the open, to put words to our rebellion and say them to a flesh-and-blood human being, to look at the spiritual GPS and see how far we’ve really gotten off course.

I eventually made it home the night of my detour down the old commute; but in an abundance of caution, I left my GPS on and used it all the way to the new house. I was done relying on my faulty sense of direction. I just wanted the drive to end.

All of us have a bad sense of direction without the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit and the strong support of other believers. And while it can be humbling to admit we’ve gotten off track, thank God we’re finally headed home.

Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too.