Go Left, Old Man

Horace Greeley popularized the phrase, Go west, young man! The phrase is thought to encourage young men to grow with the country, break their comfort zones, and move out of the manicured meadows of the Eastern US. In 1990 Michael W. Smith released the hit Christian song “Go West Young Man,” a song that relates west to following God, away from the dark paths of the carnal mind. An excerpt from the song:

Go west young man
Go west young man
When the evil go east
Go west young man…
Why must I wander like a cloud
Following the crowd?

My story is similar, though the metaphor is different. The poetic expression I want to share with you was born out of an unusual circumstance—perhaps a miracle. It came about during a season of my life when the decisions I knew God was leading me to make, during a time of crisis, went against the grain of typical, status-quo Christian thought.

Having begun my seventh decade of life (I’m 61!), I find myself more ready than ever to unbox my life, learn new things, and even offend common paradigms, which create bondages in people.

It started with a dream my son-in-law had. The dream was filled with left turns, when others were going right. Now, you need to know—my wife, Ruthie, is gifted at interpreting dreams. Someone will tell me a dream, and it will be like Swahili to me, and Ruthie will understand it like perfect English. As Ruthie and I sought God to put the meaning of the dream together, it was evident that the left turns were symbolic of decisions made contrary to common expectation. When I realized that, I exclaimed, “That’s it! That is what is happening with me! God is guiding me upstream against the common flow.” This was not new for me. Standing against status quo has been God’s journey for me as a pattern, but the left turns gave meaning to what was happening in my life at that time.

A Most Unusual Encounter

A couple of days after interpreting this dream, Ruthie and I attended a church service. After the service had ended, Susan, a good friend of ours whom we trust, came up to us and said very shyly, “Uh…this may sound strange, but I got something very unusual from God for you, and I don’t understand it, but He wants me to give it to you. It doesn’t make sense…uh…but He told me to tell you that there are six left turns in your life now.”

Now, let me be clear—this friend knew nothing about the dream that occurred a few days before.

I was so excited I could have done a triple back flip (At my age, and 250 lbs., I sometimes struggle to do a double!). Talk about a direct word from God! I didn’t know it at the time, but God was using circumstances in my life to teach me to stand against the norm, and to be willing to obey His way, even if it brought about rejection, judgment, or aloneness.

I wrote the following poetic expression during this season, and I share it with you now in the hopes that it may give you courage to follow God when He is leading you contrary to the status quo of religion or of the world. Read it slowly and think about what is being said:

 
Left Turns, a Dream, and Truth

In the dream,
to turn right
figuratively
represented,
do right,
but only right
in the common mind

right turns
represented
the
conventional
accepted
expected
traditional
noble
way to go

but I
must
turn left
and then
left again,
because though
turning right
seems right
right
is not always
right

left
is harder
when left
is right,
because
left
is respected
only by those
who have themselves
gone left
against the scorn
of those
who only know
right

common minds judge
by the obvious
and the accepted right
because they don’t understand
left

I know left.
I’ve had to go left
often
I could often see
what others couldn’t
and I obeyed
where others
wouldn’t.
I have not always
enjoyed it
nor have I chosen it,
but I have vowed
to always
do right,
and when left
is right
I must go
left

going left
often means
walking away
from the crowds
embracing rejection
judgment
criticism,
to be
right

But
being judged and
suffering rejection
accusation
pain,
unfortunately,
makes me recalculate
my turn
again and again.
Sometimes second-guessing
the path chosen.

but when all is done
and
I perceive the higher way,
I choose to
bear the shame,
embrace the suffering,
and do right
by going
left

I didn’t always do it right.
at times
I failed.
I backtracked.
I doubted myself
and God,
but the call
from Truth
eventually
picked me up
and set me back
on the right path
and dusted me off.

world changers
know when 
to go left.
The paths they have trodden
often look bleak
for they have offended
the sacred protocol
Their battles
oft
look like failures
and their brutal losses
create indictments 
against them,
but they have not failed
nor do their losses
define them.
for left-turners
plant seeds
for new
harvests
of forgotten truth
for future generations

In the ranks of those
who turned left
are Jesus
Apostle Paul
Martin Luther
Martin Luther King
Nelson Mandela
Mother Teresa
Brave Heart
the witnesses of Hebrews 11
along with millions
nobody ever heard of,

who prevailed through
the pressures
of the right
because in their
battles,
in their death,
they could not live
with second best,
half of God’s plan,
the sacred
status quo.

Often it is the left-turners
who have changed cultures
cleared paths
influenced nations.

They are those
who always
turn right

until they understand

that right

is wrong!

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