The Long Way Around

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I like a good shortcut. It’s simple geometry; the shortest path between Point A and Point B is a straight line.

If my phone’s navigation system tells me that the quickest route to my destination is also the longest in terms of miles, an internal conflict begins to brew:

“Listen to the GPS! It’s smarter than you!”

“But it’s telling me to go the long way! I can’t handle it!”

The struggle is real.

It’s like I think I can beat the system. Bake the cookies at a higher temperature, and you can get them out sooner. Make a U-turn here; no need to wait for a protected left. Put two diapers on the baby, and you’ll only have to change her half as often. (Just kidding. I think.)

There is something in me that makes a lunge for whatever my brain deems most efficient at any given time.

“Watch out grandma, I have a shopping cart full of microwavable food, and I’m coming through!”

It’s all I can do to take a deep breath, consider the potential ramifications of this kind of recklessness, and calmly push my cart down the next aisle over.

Put simply, I don’t like to wait.

Although I’ve grown some in this area and haven’t inflicted any shopping cart injuries lately, patience is still lacking when it comes to the bigger stuff:

“We’ve been trying to sell this car for months, and no one is biting!” (It finally sold.)

“How long do I have to wait to find out if I got … the job, the house, the award, the opportunity?”

“I’ve been eating healthy for THREE DAYS and nothing has changed!”

“I’ve been praying for years, and I don’t see the answer.”

“How is it that I’m pushing 30, and all of my childhood dreams haven’t come true?”

I’m being cheeky, but the truth is that a huge part of me links the uneventful passage of time with dissapointment and even failure.

“I never thought that this is how my life would end up.”

It sounds so ungrateful–so narrow minded and pessimistic.

Yet, in a moment of impatience and self-involved gloom, I said those exact words. Then, in a moment of God-inspired clarity, I read these:

 “Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.”–Numbers 21:4 (NASB)

I realize that context is critical when it comes to reading the Bible, and there is more going on here than just this one verse. However, this was the first verse in my devotional reading, and it was all I needed to realize that God was using His Word to shine a light on the attitude of my heart.

Like the people of Israel, I have become “impatient because of the journey.”

Like my near-collision with granny and her shopping cart, the casualties of my impatience are people whom God loves. Sometimes the victim is my own character.

I’ve been looking at my life, trying to measure its worth in terms of years spent in one place, levels reached, or goals achieved.

I wonder how the stats would change if I counted how many times I stopped to hug a child, help a stranger, or inquire about an old friend?

When I look at life through people-focused goggles, I see a web of strings connecting me to family, friends, employers, co-workers, and strangers I pass on the street. There is no short line connecting two points that does not inadvertently cut out scores of people–human beings, made in the image of God.

Ironically, it was while I was trying to find a shortcut to a college degree that I learned something about people that stuck with me ever since. I was taking a class in human resource management, not because I was particularly suited for business, but because I saw it as the easiest path to finishing school. There, I learned that people are an organization’s greatest resource.

This principle applies in God’s kingdom as well as the business world, and it occurs to me that I’ve been asking the wrong question.

“How much longer?” It’s the protest of a weary toddler on a long road trip.

But people who have been moved by the heart of God ask this instead:

“Who am I here for?”

“How can I love better?”

These questions prioritize the valuable, inviting us to be more like Jesus.

Perhaps this is what God had in mind when He took me the long way around?

*If you are still reading this and you are not my mom, please oblige me. It is almost Mother’s Day, after all. This post, including the poem that follows, is dedicated to my mom–the woman who daily chooses the long way around and does so with grace, humilty and joy. Mom, my life will have counted for much if I can live it with even half the selflessness I see in you.

The Long Way Around

“Baby’s dying,” they said.
“You must push!”
And fear gave chase
As the pain came in waves

So she took the long way around

Push hard
Vessels burst
Eyes red
Baby first

She took the long way around

“How much longer?” they said.
“Are we there?”
And impatience gave chase
As the miles fell away

But she took the long way around

Just laugh
Smile bright
Sing songs
Don’t fight

She took the long way around

“Money’s tight,” they said.
“Go to work.”
And worry gave chase
As the hours grew late

Still, she took the long way around

Give more
Take less
Do without
Say yes

She took the long way around

“It’s hard to raise girls,” they said.
“Don’t you know?”
And drama gave chase
As a sharp tongue slayed

Yet, she took the long way around

Just love
Ask twice
Be there
Make nice

She took the long way around

“You can’t mother the world,” they said.
“Close your door.”
And compassion gave chase
As the strays came to stay

Yes, she took the long way around

Reach out
Share calm
Bring hope
Be mom

She took the long way around

2 thoughts on “The Long Way Around

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