Turning back

How did I get here?

It happens every so often. The wheels beneath me seem to move on their own, and I arrive in my car (or on my bike) at some unexpected location. I don’t recall the moment I turned off course. I only realize what has happened when I find myself where I did not intend to be.

How did I get here?

It happens every so often. The words seem to keep tumbling out of my mouth, and I find myself defensive regarding a matter of no real consequence. I don’t recall the moment I said the thing that unleashed the tide. I only realize what has happened when I find myself in an argument that has neither beginning nor end.

Maybe, like me, you spend much of your life on autopilot. You flit from one thing to another, and while moving at such a rapid pace, sometimes you lose track of direction. And then one day, or in one moment of this day, you come to your self. You look up from the task, the screen, or the activity that usually has your attention. And for one brief instant, you are undivided, and fully present. And then you see where you are. You notice what are doing. And you ask yourself,

How did I get here?

All too often, when we arrive at these moment of self-reflection, we don’t like what we see, and so we dive headfirst back into whatever it is that distracts us. And it is missed opportunity. Because every time we ask ourselves,

‘How did I get here?’, we could also ask, ‘What am I doing?’

We have the opportunity to assess how we are living our day-to-day lives, and then reflect on how we could be living them differently. Because – while we still have breath in our lungs – each of us is still on the journey, and at any moment, we could choose to travel a different road. We do not have to continue going the way that we are going. We could choose to turn back.

“To turn back” is the very definition of repentance. That word has been tarnished by church-imposed guilt or institutional shaming, but I think it’s time we took the word back. Because I, for one, need repentance. I need to be reminded that just because I have gone down a road of emotional detachment, self-destruction, or interpersonal resentment doesn’t mean that I have to stay on that path. I could turn back. I could choose at this very moment to pause. To pray. To recenter myself in life. To choose compassion. To be more engaged in the world around me that is desperately in need of people who commit themselves to the work of justice and peace.

For Christians, this is the meaning of the season of Lent. It is 40 Days of intentionally turning back, and assessing the way we find ourselves living presently, so that we may choose to live differently. It begins with remembering our mortality – how precious life is! – while also celebrating that God can (and does) amazing things through us moral beings.

So, if it’s been a minute since you’ve had that moment, I invite you to notice where you are, and to ask

How did I get here?

And if, like me, you are not yet living exactly the way you would choose, I invite you to turn back. Let this be the moment that you choose to live differently.

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