Have you ever done something so stupid you have a hard time figuring out what you were even thinking? I have. Have you examined a situation, sized it up in your mind, and then chosen the dumbest option possible? I have. Turn Around. Don’t Drown® is a well-known phrase the National Weather Service trademarked back in 2003. It’s a phrase that I believe has both life-saving and soul-guarding applications. To explain this, I need to tell you a story about one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. Hopefully, my shame and embarrassment will become your edification and instruction.
I promise I’m not an idiot.
I consider myself a good driver. And I’m pretty smart too. At least, I used to think so. All of that changed one fateful Wednesday night a few years ago. I was one my way home with my oldest son and it was pouring rain. The roads were wet and messy and I took great care in driving home. We were on the home stretch, the narrow country road near our home, when disaster struck. Up ahead, I could see the road was covered with water. This section frequently “floods” when it rains heavily, though it’s usually only a small section and it’s very shallow. The road was not closed, so I looked at the water level, evaluated how far I would have to drive through it, and decided it was worth the risk. I don’t consider myself a reckless or stupid man but on that night, I was both.
I accelerated to a steady, though careful, speed and hit the flooded road. Within seconds I knew I had made a huge mistake. What had appeared to be shallow water was quickly swelling close to our windows. Outwardly, I stayed calm, mostly to reassure my son, but inwardly, I was panicking. At this point, it was too late to do anything but press on – at least that is what I told myself – so I kept inching the car forward and the water continued to rise higher. Then the engine died.
Is now a good time to freak out?
So there we were. Water all around us in a car that was no longer running, though I could see clear road a few hundred feet away. Realizing we couldn’t just sit there, as the car would soon start taking on water, and knowing it could get much worse as the rain was still near Biblical proportions, I figured I had to get the car running immediately and hope we could make it out. As calmly as I could, I looked at my son and said, “Just pray.” Granted, those two words probably freaked him out more than almost anything I could have done in the moment, but I didn’t trust myself to say anything else. So, we started praying, I turned the ignition, pumped the gas pedal, and the car started! I didn’t hesitate. I gunned it and we launched out of the flooded area as quickly as we could.
Once we were clear, I told my son I was sorry for attempting to drive through the flooded area. I told him how stupid it was for me to do that. He was shaken up. So was I. The worst thing about the whole incident is that it was completely avoidable. An unspeakable tragedy almost struck my family because I was too confident in my own abilities to simply turn around. My pride told me I could handle it. My pride was wrong.
“We are not as strong as we think we are.”
How often do we fall to temptation’s snare because we are too confident, too proud? As Rich Mullins put it, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” Yes, there are times we can be bold and resist the Devil to his face. (James 4:7) Spiritual maturity will bring with it strength and discipline. Yet, even with that, there will be plenty of moments when we will be faced with something too big for us. We should take our cue from Joseph. Though he was strong in the faith, he literally ran away from Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him. Running away is not weak. Running away shows that we are fully aware of our weakness and our reliance on God’s strength.
Avoiding sin is not a passive thing.
Turning around, fleeing, or running away is bigger than that, though. It’s about how we orient our lives. Are we putting ourselves in situations where sinning becomes easier? Do we have “David and Bathsheba” moments? To explain my thinking here, I’ll simply quote myself from a previous article.
We find the story of this great fall in 2 Samuel chapter 11. Early in the chapter, there is a key phrase that is used to set the context of the scene, “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites.” For whatever reason, David decided that he did not need to go out to war. He chose to stay home.
Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but this feels like a man who believed he had his life under control. He was confident, self-assured, and in control. That is a very dangerous place to be for any Christian. That’s not to say we should walk around afraid. Yet, based on David’s actions in the next few verses, it is clear he was not where he needed to be spiritually speaking. He was vulnerable to attack and open to temptation.Five Lies Temptation Tells About Sin
David stays behind, has too much time on his hand, sneaks a peak at Bathsheba, and sins. He placed himself in a compromising situation and he was compromised. How often do we do this sort of thing? How often do we tell ourselves, “It’s okay to watch this show even though it’s full of nudity and other strong sexual content”? Or, “I can make out with my boyfriend in his apartment. I won’t let it go too far.”
He that is without sin among you…
I’ve made these mistakes. At various points in my life, I’ve told myself I was strong enough to handle it. I was convinced I could keep my mind clean even though I was taking in all sorts of filth. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. Please understand, I am not making any sweeping, all-encompassing declarations here. Everyone is different. Everyone has different weak points or proclivities. Your specific area of struggle could be related to gossip, or honesty, or envy. I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that you are taking any and every precaution you can to keep yourself pure in the eyes of God. I Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to “Abstain from every form of evil.” I think that applies to the areas leading up to whatever evil “so easily entangles” you. (Hebrews 12:1)
We are not all heroes of the faith. And even if we were, there are still times heroes need to turn around to avoid drowning. Rely on God’s strength instead of your own. Of course, be busy in the eternal work of building your faith. Grow in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.” But, know yourself. Know your limits. Know your weaknesses.
If there is an area where you struggle, it’s okay to turn around. It’s okay to flee. It’s okay to run away. It might save your life. Learn from my near disaster. When you see the “flooded road” ahead, don’t let your pride and overconfidence be the strongest voices in your head. There are some roads you cannot cross without exposing your weaknesses and falling. There are some roads too dangerous to drive. Turn around, don’t drown!