One of my favorite movies is The Bridge on the River Kwai. Unfortunately, many of the younger people reading this short article probably have never had the opportunity to see it. The movie is about a group of British prisoners of war held in western Thailand after the surrender of Singapore at the beginning of WWII.
Lt. Colonel Nicholson, played by Alec Guinness, strives to maintain the legendary British order and discipline while his men are forced to construct a railroad bridge over the Kwai. Nicholson believes that his men will have an opportunity to show forth English superiority by building the bridge in the best way they can, even suggesting improvements over the Japanese design. Some of the men under his command question the wisdom and the patriotism of helping the enemy construct a bridge that would be even better than the one they had planned.
The movie reaches its climax after the completion of the bridge. Just as a Japanese troop train is about to cross the Kwai, Nicholson comes to his senses and utters the famous line, “What have I done?!”
Many of us have had similar moments when we realized that we had been pursuing, struggling towards, and fighting for a misplaced set of values and priorities. We did it blinded, just as Lt. Col. Nicholson was, by that other voice encouraging us to press on. Finally, we too come to our senses recognizing that we are about to pull our own house down upon our own head, and we ask, “What have I done?”
Christianity calls that moment of awakening, repentance, or at least the beginnings thereof. It should never be a moment of embarrassment or shame because it is never shameful to correct one’s course away from disaster and towards health and wholeness.
The Good News during this Lenten season is that it is never too late to change course. Jesus Christ has not given up on you. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or how far down that “wrong road” you have travelled. Christ has followed you, calling you to retrace your steps back to him, hoping with all the love that the Father displayed through the giving of the Son on the cross that you will ask , “What have I done?” Christ, himself, has the answer, “Nothing that I cannot fix and forgive. Follow me.”