Whenever we are in two cars headed to the same destination, my husband and I channel our inner Nascar and compete to see who can get home the quickest. Our children love this game and feed the competition, throwing out short cuts and back alleys we should take to win the beloved bragging rights. I love a good short cut; who doesn’t?
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to becoming or building disciples. If there were, we can be sure that Paul, Mr. Driven himself, or, for that matter, Jesus, the smartest man who has ever lived would have found and frequented them.
The Bible is replete with stories of people whom God took the long way. Abram was promised a child after a long waiting; yet in exhaustion with the painstaking timetable, he settled for a shortcut and literally made an Ishmael. We know how well that shortcut went.
On the mad dash out of the land of oppressive Egypt, God took his people a long way to avoid the temptations that would have ensnared his wandering people on the direct route through pagan territory.
Jesus didn’t grow straight from infant king to world-changing Rabi like the just-soak-in-water toys my children love. He went the long way of childhood and puberty.
In an even more significant moment, during his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus refused to take the shortcuts that the enemy laid before him so winsomely. Satan wasn’t tempting Christ to concepts that were wrong, after all, Christ was the Son of God and would one day inherit and rule the earth and could very easily make stones turn to bread and would soon be ministered to by angels. He was tempting Christ to take matters into His own hands and force His own timetable rather than accept the course that His Father had laid out for Him.
Yet I keep find myself searching for them, scouring book shelves for a parenting or marriage or discipleship book that can get me where I want myself, my spouse, my kids, my mentees to go more quickly, more easily.
Thanks to marketing and my own mangled souls, shortcuts scream at us, promising the desired ends by quicker means. From losing a few inches to gaining new church members, shortcuts shout at us in every arena of life.
However, if the slow, intentional history of redemption that ended in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus teaches us anything, it is that God is the God of the long way home.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes the Lord is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
From one tiny, often imperceptible iteration of glory to another, God takes His children and transforms them.
Rather than rocket us from one place to another in a nearly vertical trajectory, God chooses to take us one from one tiny level of glory to another in a way that often feels painfully horizontal. It seems that God gets more glory and we more dependence (which ultimately leads to joy) when we take the long way home.
As we approach the new year and a fresh number is tacked on where an old, bedraggled one once stood, we would do well to remember that God is not the God of shortcuts. God takes great delight in taking us, walking with us, leading us the long way home.
Rather than vowing to read my Bible more faithfully or to administer our family devotions more winsomely all while eating only kale for six months, this year I want to enjoy the presence of God as He takes me and my loved ones on the long way home.