One of the beautiful things about this life is that the mundane things point us to God. Sometimes, it’s the beauty of my back deck garden. With all the rain we’ve been getting lately, it has grown full and luxurious, brightly colored flowers waving in the wind like a collection of living gems. Sometimes, it’s a story that points me to the Lord, or an off-the-cuff conversation, or a pop song that suddenly blares out on the radio when I’m driving home from work.

And sometimes, it’s traffic.

No, really.

Atlanta is known for its awful traffic, and in the last few years I have noticed an uptick in people doing some really ridiculous things.

Like, cross 5 lanes of heavy highway traffic at once because a person suddenly realized they were about to miss their exit.

Or stop a whole lane of traffic because a person just realized they needed to turn right, RIGHT NOW, and they are in the left lane… so they’ll just hold up all the traffic in the left lane until all the traffic in the right lane has gone by.

And then there’s the person who decides from the right lane that they want to turn left, so they cut off the people already in line in the left turn lane, disregarding the trouble they have just caused other drivers.

Man. I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it. I mean, I have never done any ridiculous things on the road. {Ha! This would be false. My husband has nicknamed me Danica Patrick.}

What would be the better way for each of these drivers? To go to the next exit, street, or parking lot and turn around, of course.

I may be overstretching this a bit, but it seems to me that this growing tendency in Atlanta driving culture is a testimony to a growing tendency in the rest of our culture: the unwillingness to take responsibility for our mistakes, inattention, irresponsibility, or sin.

It’s the same attitude that says, “Well, this is what’s best for me, so it doesn’t really matter how it affects others.” It’s the loud proclamation that “I just have to do what I have to do.”

Quite honestly, it has nothing to do with love.

I am guilty of this attitude. As long as I’m sitting on my beautiful back deck, surrounded by the birds chirping and my garden growing, I’m such a lovely person. But when things don’t go my way, when I’m stressed and tired and hungry, when I’m running late (a frequent occurrence) and traffic is bad and shoot!! There’s my exit!!…, my responses to life and the people around me are not always in keeping with being united to Christ. Not by a long shot.

There’s a word for what to do when you find yourself in this place: Repentance. It’s the willingness to own up to my crap and turn around, away from it, because that is what’s best for myself and also all the people in my life.

But it’s more than just wildly pulling a u-turn in the middle of a busy street. Repentance entails taking the time to pull off the road (somewhere safe) and listen – for where I went wrong, for new directions. Even if I know exactly what I need to do to get back on course, my soul generally still needs to re-calibrate.

It requires a slice of stillness, sometimes big and sometimes small, depending on how mixed up I’ve gotten. It means taking a deep breath, admitting where I went wrong, and then doing what I need to do in order to get back on course to my destination. I always have a destination in mind when I’m driving.

In my spiritual life, I have a destination in mind too. I am united to Christ. I have the Holy Spirit living in me. My destination is to love God as He has loved me and to love my neighbor as myself, every day, until I meet God face to face and hopefully hear those glorious words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Master.”

Sadly, I don’t do those things very well, so my life requires a lot of repentance.

I’m tempted to think of repentance as something that is shame-filled, and therefore unbearable. But the reality is so different. The Apostle Paul says that God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance.

His kindness leads us to a turning around from going the wrong way. He doesn’t shame us into repentance; He loves us into repentance. And as we respond to His love, we start to become more like Jesus. We grow in loving God as He has loved us, and we grow in loving our neighbors as ourselves.

But becoming like Jesus means turning away from sin. It means being sorry for it. Truly sorry. Not defensive, not shifting the blame to someone else, not wallowing in shame, not avoiding it or trying to “fix” it on my own so I won’t get caught. His kindness and grace have a way of humbling us with an invitation to godly sorrow. That godly sorrow leads us to repentance, which leads to restored relationships and my restored soul.

It is a truly beautiful and freeing experience to be able to repent and be restored. Much less harrowing than cutting across five lanes of traffic to do “what’s best for me” (which, it turns out, really isn’t best for me).