A few weeks ago, a friend and I took our kids for a hike. We'd both been to the area before and felt we knew it well enough - we were trying to pay attention to the trail codes and everything. Somehow, though, we got off track. I'm still not sure where exactly we went wrong, but it was bad. We had been scrambling over fallen trees and large rocks, coaxing the little ones along and sliding down steep slopes. We didn't think we'd be gone long, so we left our water bottles in the cars, and every one of us was tired and soaked in sweat.
When we finally came to a place where I thought we'd be getting back on track, a rather grumpy woman came out to inform us we were trespassing on private property, we were nowhere near where we wanted to be, and the only way to get back was to go right back down to the dangerous and tiresome scrambling we had just fought our way out of.
I don't think I was the only one who wanted to cry.
By God's mercy, I decided to get my phone out, checked where we were on google maps, and set a course for where we wanted to be. It took a while, everyone was tired, hungry and hot, but we made it through (without actual tears, which was amazing, I tell you).
The interesting thing I learned, though, is how I didn't actually realize how lost I was until our cheerless messenger let us know how off course we really were. If she hadn't of informed us of this brutal truth, we probably would have continued on, hopefully thinking we were just around the bend from where we wanted to be. However, once I realized how bad the situation was, I turned to the map that would show me the way. It wasn't an easy route out, but we had confidence that we were headed in the right direction.
It made me think how often I can be tempted to bumble along in life, never realizing how a couple of foolish decisions or a failure to pay attention can lead me down a path that leads to nowhere. Sometimes, while we're haplessly wandering, Providence will send a warning our way - someone or something that reveals our true situation. No one likes to hear they're lost, but until they accept that they are in pretty bad shape, they have no hope of charting a new course. Likewise, unless someone tells me I've wronged them, or shows me where I've neglected my responsibilities, or is prepared to confront me with my sin, it's unlikely that I would the need to fix what I didn't know was broken.
I would recommend a caveat, though. We are to speak in love, out of a desire to restore, rather than condemn or punish. When this woman came to drive us off her property, she seemed more offended that we disturbed her, and less concerned that we were lost. (Threatening 2 women and 10 kids with a couple of attack dogs didn't help.) As believers, however, we should be more concerned with our brother or sister's good than with "setting them straight".
Has there been a time when you had to deliver or receive the "hard message"? How did it go?