Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Life's Direction Change

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It's one of those movies that, much to my wife's displeasure, I must stop and watch whenever I find it on television. I'm not sure why that is, but The Princess Bride is a sure stop on the remote control tour of the channels. Maybe it's so I can watch wrestling legend Andre the Giant act without using a bodyslam or throwing an opponent into a turnbuckle. Perhaps it's the joy I get in watching Wallace Shawn as Fezzini lose a battle of wits in an "inconceivable" manner. Or possibly it's to see a Wonder Years-aged Fred Savage wearing a Walter Payton jersey. (By the way, which character are you? I'm Valerie, Miracle Max's wife. Yes, that's embarrassing.)

One thing I do know: there is a line at the end of the movie that really sets me a-thinkin'. The Spaniard, Inigo Montoya (portrayed by Mandy Patinkin) has spent his entire life searching for the man who murdered his father. He trained to be an expert swordsman and enlisted help to find the scoundrel. Over and over Inigo rehearsed what he would say to that man when he finally caught up to him -- "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Vengeance was his whole life. Eventually Inigo caught up to his father's killer and dispatched him after an amazing show of determination and skill. As he was making his escape, Inigo spoke aloud about the uncertainty of what lay ahead. "You know, I've been in the revenge business so long I don't know what to do next."

That line always stirs my imagination. Imagine having one goal in life and then accomplishing it only to find that you still have much of life remaining. Or, let's take it another direction; imagine having one goal in life and before you reach it, finding out that your goal is not what you should be aiming toward.

I have known people whose main objective in life was to become rich and famous. I don't know about the rich part, but none of them are currently famous. And there is at least one who realized that being rich and famous wasn't all that important in the first place. She went from seeking glory for herself to seeking glory for God. But what a change that is! And that change in direction is what we are called to do with our lives.

That life change is what the prophets called repentance. The best definition of repent that I know is "a U-turn on the road of life." A 180. A complete change of direction. So as Christians, we are to steer away from where the world points us and toward the place God wants us.

When the folks made their way out to see John the Baptist, his message for them was to repent. Most didn't think they needed to repent, but John pointed out that their lives should show the fruits of repentance. If there was repentance, there should be fruit -- evidence that their lives' direction was different. The Pharisees were sure that their genealogy was their evidence of worthiness, but they were wrong. True repentance has nothing to do with ancestry. It has to do with turning from pleasing one's self to pleasing God. And it is hard.

In fact, it's downright impossible. On our own we can make a left turn or a right turn. We can take a 45 degree angle. We can twist back and forth. But our destination never seems to be where it's supposed to do. We've lived so long for our own pleasure that we don't know how to live any other way. After the rush of coming to Christ dies down, we are faced with the tough stuff. The temptation of going back to the way we were. The pull of materialism. The call of selfishness. And that U-turn tries to come full circle.

But God knew what we'd be going through during this process. He gave us a gift. Himself. The power of the Holy Spirit within us. That's the only way it works.

We must repent of a sinful life, but we must also repent of our individual sins. Everyone seems to have a pet sin or two we have a hard time turning over to God. It may be greed or pornography or pride or gossip or lying or any number of things, but to live according to God's wishes we must repent. That may mean many times when we don't know what to do. Like Inigo Montoya, we've lived one way for so long that we don't know how not to live that way. But God knows how. And He enables us to do it if we truly repent. Sometimes that repentance must happen again and again and again.

"Lord, help me to lean on you for strength to live my life for your glory and not mine."

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