Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Taking the Long Way



Do you ever stop to wonder how different our lives might look if, instead of searching for the most expedient way, we looked for the most meaningful?

The word shortcut has existed in English since the 1500s...and I'm sure the idea of it has been around long before that. Because generally speaking, no matter what we might say about joy being found in the journey, we're all about the destination. And our goal is to get there as quickly as possible.

I readily admit I do this. I've found the quickest path to the mailbox. I've experimented to find the quickest route to places I go regularly. I've even developed a method for the quickest way to dry off when I get out of the shower (without missing any spots, of course). In my brain, this was just reasonable--the less time I spend getting there, the more time I can spend being there. Right?

But a couple weeks ago I got a Garmin Forerunner watch, which counts my steps and sets my activity goals for the day. And suddenly, my math changed. When I stepped outside to get the mail, I had this moment of debate: if I go the quick way, I'll get the mail faster and be back inside working in no time...but if I take the long way around, I'll get a couple hundred more steps toward my daily goal.

That first day, I took the sort of longer way--around the garden plot rather than through the woods. But as the weeks went on, I started looking for longer and longer routes to the mailbox. Now I find myself walking all along the driveway loop rather than cutting through the yard at all. Because my metric has changed. My goal shifted. I realized that the two minutes I might save in time was worth trading for the extra movement.

The other day, as I walked that longer path and meandered by the wind chimes hanging from a tree, the melody, chaotic but beautiful, spoke something to my soul. Sometimes, it seemed to say, you just need to take the long way.

The words stayed with me. I knew I wanted to ponder it and write about it, but I wasn't sure what I was going to say. After all, a longer route to the mailbox for the sake of fitness isn't exactly a deep spiritual epiphany, you know? But then I started to wonder if Jesus ever gave us this example. And I think He did.

There are several times in the Gospels where Jesus sends the disciples on ahead, and He goes off by himself to pray. The earliest example is in Matthew 14, after He feeds the five thousand. The disciples all get in a boat and go directly across the water to their next destination--the quickest route. But Jesus opts for a different path. He dismisses the multitude and then goes up the mountain to pray. Talk about the long way!

I'd noticed this before, of course, and thought it really cool that Jesus took a bit of a retreat to renew himself in the Father. But I'd never really paused to consider that He did this--knew He should do this--because getting to the other side as quickly as possible was not His goal. 

Of course, it's also worth noting that the disciples didn't get there ahead of him. They ended up storm-tossed, and He caught up with them, walking on the water. Another great example of how life often works, isn't it? We think we're on the quickest path...but then the storms arise. All our carefully laid plans get washed away, and there we are, out on the sea with the tempest roaring around us. Maybe we're tempted to think, "Why, God? Why didn't You warn me? Why didn't You tell me to take the other way?" And maybe sometimes He says in reply, "You never listen if I tell you to take the long way. So sometimes, I just have to slow you down like this."

Because I think it's on that longer path that we often find Him. That we can hear His voice in the music of a wind chime. That we can feel the brush of His fingers in the touch of the wind. It's when we slow down and shift our focus that we learn the lessons He's been trying to whisper into our ear.

How often did Jesus answer a direct question with a long, wandering answer in the form a parable? More often than not, right? Even there, He took the long way around. He could have just answered directly--but there was a reason He didn't. He knew, even in conversation, that directness may have been what we think we want, but it isn't what we need. When we really need to dwell deeply on a topic, He forces us to do so by taking us on a little journey to the answer.

Ezra (5) and his brother, Judah (6)
You can find more about Ezra's story HERE
Last week in my first tea party book club, my VA Rachel caught my attention when she used this same phrase. She'd been talking about her son Ezra and the trial they went through when he was a baby, born without an immune system. She said, "We wanted God to heal him right now, with a big miracle. But God made us take the long way." Today, Ezra has a fully functional immune system and is a healthy, happy boy. As a mama, I know Rachel would have preferred he get there all at once--and we tend to think, "Just think of the testimony we'd have if you gave us a miracle, God!"

But sometimes God says, "And think of the glory you get to give me every day through this when I take you on the long way. Think of all the opportunities you have to praise and trust Me when every day you have a reminder of how dependent on Me you are. Think of how much more miraculous it is that I protect you every day from the worst."

We see things through linear, chronological, twenty-four-seven eyes. But God sees things through the lens of eternity. To Him, I don't think "the long way" is any less expedient than "right now." We may see it as having to wait, as languishing in misery or pain, as waiting for a healing, for a miracle, for God to move.

But He sees it, I think, as prepping the soil for the life that will grow there. As showing us something we need to learn first. As being made ready for what He's going to do.

When the man blind from birth was healed, Jesus says his blindness wasn't because of any sin, but for the glory of God. Still, he was a grown man--how long was he out on the streets, begging, before Jesus came along? He could have come sooner, you know. He could have sought this man out before. But He didn't. He waited for the perfect time in His grand plan. And you'll notice that this man doesn't say, "Why did you take the long way, Jesus? Why didn't you find me years ago?"

No. He says, "I know this: I once was blind, but now I see." A vision he wouldn't have appreciated without those years of darkness first.

So maybe it isn't even that it should be more about the journey than the destination...maybe the truth is, we can't always even appreciate arriving at the destination if we don't live through a few detours first. And maybe it's because when we can't shift our focus off of our goals, we miss what His are for us.

Maybe we need to make it a point sometimes to take the long way...and see what music He sends our spirits when we do.

2 comments:

  1. I absolutely loved this! I shared on my author page!

    ReplyDelete