“Hold it right there! You are NOT going to take that car through my car wash! The road oil will ruin the brushes.”
Later as my husband was hosing down and scrubbing off the grime of our latest shortcut, he reminded me that once again he shouldn’t have listened to me. That freshly oiled Iowa gravel road did not save us any time, especially when he was spending part of our vacation cleaning off the mess.
I like maps and I also like to discover efficient routes to get us to our destination. “If it’s on the map, it must be fine!” is my motto. Of course that winding, back road in the Appalachian Mountains that almost sent us over a cliff was no picnic. And our tortuous descent into Thunder Bay, Ontario, looked good on paper, but actually added at least a half hour to the trip.
I’ve been better over the years; however, recently we bounced and maneuvered around potholes… another one of my shortcuts… this time on the way to a YMCA outdoor event. My friend Valerie and her husband happened to be right behind us in their black sedan, which was quickly engulfed in our dust. Later we congratulated ourselves on encouraging our husbands to “stay the course” and not turn back.
During our last year at the seminary I found myself scrambling for a job since there were no teaching opportunities. As a temp employee for Kelly Services I learned many shortcuts from a variety of really good secretaries and office workers. They were sure to help me cut minutes and even hours from my workday, and they certainly made the tasks I was assigned easier.
My best memory was a trick from a sympathetic secretary who saw me struggling to alphabetize a five page, single spaced list of the company’s clients. This was before the age of computers, so if I missed one in the list as I was typing, I would have to start all over. She suggested I get out my scissors and tape, cut the names into strips, and rearrange them until they were accurate. Then I could simply tape the makeshift list to a larger sheet of paper and retype the whole thing. I know that given enough time to analyze my dilemma, I could have probably figured that out for myself. But what a welcome her clever suggestion was!
My teaching colleagues were also a good source for shortcuts and classroom techniques that would save me time. But sometimes I didn’t take their advice. I would hear, “Why do you spend so much time grading all of those writing papers? Just give them a multiple-choice test and run the bubbled-in answers through the grading machine. You’ll have your grades done in no time!”
Of course I knew that no student was ever going to learn to write by simply taking a quiz or test. I needed to see what they were writing and how they were communicating if I was ever going to really teach them. And I needed to do the grading myself so I knew what I might be missing as I was sharing my knowledge and skills with them.
Some things just aren’t as good if we take a shortcut, if we leave out the process, especially when you force the issue. The process, the journey itself, is vital to the outcome. Cocoons are always used as an illustration. Butterflies will not survive or develop properly if we break open the covering in an effort to help or just speed things along.
Whenever I see a newborn baby, I know each phase of its development is vital and needs its own time. Those long, endless nights with a high-needs baby seem to challenge this thought though. I know I would have liked a few shortcut tricks to get through those early weeks.
But I also know it’s important to honor the process, let things develop, not force a shortcut that in the end prevents the growth and the result that is desired.
There was a shortcut to glory presented to our Lord Jesus.
“Change those stones into bread! If you’re God, after all, you shouldn’t have to suffer. Why wait?”
“And, by the way, you also don’t have to take that long road to the cross. Just bow down to me and everything is yours!”
Thank goodness my Lord knew the map completely and which roads and shortcuts were certain to be a disaster. He knew that every miracle, every healing, every word spoken to bring the truth of God’s love for His creation… us… was necessary for our understanding, our faith development, our salvation. He took the complete route and completed it for me, so I could benefit from the greatest shortcut ever.
My shortcut to eternal life really is the best route. I don’t have to extend the trip, the process. He did all of that for me. I’m already at my soul’s destination, really. I already have eternity with my Lord Jesus. I just happen to be in my earthly location for now.
And I already have the results of this faith, this gift from the Spirit: The benefits of freedom from the guilt that insists on trying to drag me down. Freedom from the long fruitless path of trying to appease or please God.
And in the meanwhile while I'm waiting to arrive at my final destination? I can joyfully embrace my whole trip here on earth. Taking my time to relish the scenery, the events, the time I have with my family and friends… and with my Lord.