On a dark night, you find yourself heading west on an empty highway. No other cars impede your pace, while only a few lights, far off from the edge of the road, pierce through the darkness. You’re making good time.
The problem is that you’re going the wrong way. The road is Interstate-80, which stretches from New York City to San Francisco. You’re far from either of those cities, finding yourself in Wyoming moving 80 miles an hour (the Interstate speed limit there). Your destination is Cheyenne.
There’s just one issue. You’re heading west and just passed Laramie. On the off chance that you do not have Wyoming geography firmly implanted in your mind, let me note that Laramie is about 50 miles west of Cheyenne. You’re now making good time in the wrong direction.
There are exits available, small, no-facilities exits that lead to a county road but would allow you to turn around. But you keep going. It’s now less than 50 miles to Elk Mountain, Wyoming. Beautiful Elk Mountain, which boasts little in the way of either mountains or elk, might be a place to turn around. Farther ahead, you’ll find Point of Rocks, Rock Springs, and the marvelously named Little America. You could turn around at any of these places. Sure, it’ll be morning by the time you get there and noon you hit Cheyenne. Yes, you’ll have to cover this same stretch of road again, but you could wait to turn around.
Who would do that on a roadtrip? When you know you’re going the wrong way, you don’t keep going do you? Every mile you drive in the wrong direction will wind up being an extra two miles you have to cover. Anybody with any sense, the moment they know they’ve overshot their destination, will find the first exit and reverse course.
Why is it that when we have the good sense to handle a driving mistake in this manner, we don’t have the sense to correct other errors immediately. Previously I noted that the thing that has been bothering me lately is out-of-control eating. At present, I don’t like where I am, and I’m driving in the wrong direction. So do I immediately find an exit and turn around? No. Instead, I rationalize that Monday will be a good time to make a new start. Or maybe after Easter. Or maybe when the semester is over. That will let me really establish some new habits.
You can plug in your sin–and let’s be clear that gluttony is a sin–and probably convince yourself that you need to repent . . . eventually.
The reality is that delayed repentance is not just inefficient, like driving farther in the wrong direction. It is actually no repentance at all. When Peter and John revealed the gospel to a crowd in Acts 3, they didn’t suggest repentance next week or next year. They directed the people to repent in the present tense, now.
Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. –Acts 3:19-20
An exit comes into view, an off ramp to the right and an on-ramp to the left. You can’t refill your coffee here, but you can turn around. You tap the brakes and switch on the turn signal.