If you were like me this month, you probably found yourself riveted to the news stories about lost people.
Fortunately, Lawrence Williams, 85, of Ohio had a better outcome than the Oregon family or the Mount Hood climbers. He likely was marching to the beat of a different drummer this Christmas, when he pointed his car toward what he thought would be his family home.
Instead of returning to the family home for a celebration in Greenwood, Ind., Williams made a wrong turn, sending him north rather than the required southern heading. With one more wrong turn on State Road 37, Williams found himself headed toward Michigan.
While he was cruising down the highway, his family was filing a missing-person report at a nearby police station.
Ten hours later, but still convinced he hadn’t driven far, Williams stopped against a median on a lonely Michigan road where he was extracted by Michigan State police, “extradited” to Illinois, and extolled by his family on the virtues of asking for directions when lost.
His 37-mile route turned into 269 miles.
To come home, Williams only needed to “repent.”
Most of us cringe when we hear that word. It conjures up the image of a silver-haired, scraggly-bearded, old man in the seediest part of a major city holding a sign reading, “REPENT!”
We cringe for good reason. The word is a favored word of some of the Bible’s most “Grumpy Gusses.” For instance, Jonah, the guy lost at sea and swallowed by whale only to be regurgitated on the Nineveh shores, used it in raging against the city. It also was made popular by John the Baptist, the crazy cousin of Jesus who lived in the desert and ate bugs.
Jesus took up the word and commanded his followers to, “Repent.” Repentance comes from the Greek word “Metanoia,” which means to turn around, stop what you are doing and reverse your direction.
In the original Christmas story, three wise guys found themselves reversing directions. They were hopelessly lost when they stumbled into a king’s palace to ask for directions. It is here they hoped to find signs and wonders that would point to a better day for God’s people.
These three magicians weren’t going to find peace with this maniacal king anymore than Williams was going to find Christmas custard in the Michigan snow.
They were lost. In “Star Trek” talk, they needed to reverse thrusters. U-turn time. About-face, soldier!
Only after “repenting” were these wise men able to find the peace they sought in a place no one would suspect — among the stable animals. It would be a place previously promised to the shepherds, a place where they would find “a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The Christmas story still inspires a sign of hope. The fact these hopeful stargazers found their “sign of peace” in a helpless child proves that in a day where men search for evil weapons, the search for peace still is a worthy hope.
It’s a funny irony that in a day when so many politicians are searching for peace and calling for us to “look forward,” Williams found his way home and thereby his peace, not by “staying the course,” but by “repenting” the course.