How many of you have taken a shortcut which ended up in disaster? This frequently happens in life, when we get so caught up in the pursuit of some wonderful goal that we start cutting corners in order to get there. The pace quickens, the stress level skyrockets, ethical boundaries may get fuzzy, and suddenly things fall apart.
This happened recently in major league baseball when the sporting world was rocked by allegations of electronic sign-stealing. No less than three managers lost their jobs this week, and the investigation is still not complete. (I would mention the teams in question, but that might incriminate my beloved Red Sox, so I won’t do that.) Highly successful professionals saw a shortcut to excellence, they took it, and now they are paying a very heavy price.
The contrast to the shortcut approach is the long way around. The long way is slow, it is tedious, it feels un-American. In a digital age, how could it be best that I have to wait for anything at any time? If we have to wait for more than 5 seconds for the next website to load, for example, we gnash our teeth. But God usually seems to move at a different speed than our frenetic culture, often choosing to go slower and dig deeper than we would prefer.
Abraham entered the promised land and was ready for his first-born son to appear. God’s timetable added 25 years. In those long years of disappointment, Abraham learned what it meant to walk by faith, not by sight, and he caught a glimpse of the “city, whose builder and maker is God.” Highly-educated Moses was ready to lead the Israelites at age 40 and proved it by killing an Egyptian. God’s timetable added 40 years. In those long years of disappointment, he learned the one thing that all the education of Egypt couldn’t teach: humility. Of course, the ultimate example of being willing to take the long way is Jesus himself. For some mysterious reason, He did not come to redeem his Bride when humanity fell at Eden. Instead, he waited 4,000 years. And he has waited another 2,000 years to come and take her home.
If we were in charge, things would move more quickly. We would get results, and fast. Abraham would immediately have Isaac, Moses would lead at age 40 instead of 80, and we would already be enjoying heaven, this whole messy world having long ago been consumed in fire. (Well, maybe not too long ago, or we wouldn’t have been born…) And in our rush for results, we would have missed something. Namely: God.
One of our Sabbath songs is about Enoch, a man who “walked with God.” If we are going to do likewise, we need to walk at His pace. Racing ahead of Him leads to loss of connection. The Sabbath reminds us of the pace and rhythm of God. He was content to work for six days and then “waste” 24 whole hours doing nothing but resting. And since that is the pace at which He operates, I suggest it would be well to follow that rhythm.
We must let go of the need for speed, of the demands for instant gratification, of the timeless attraction of the short cut. We need to stop waving our timetables in the air, demanding that God conform to our perfect schedule of events. Instead, we must listen for His voice, move at His pace, and be content as He unfolds each day, one hour at a time.
So I encourage you to keep this Sabbath slowly. Forget about the unfinished jobs from the past week, or the looming demands of the week to come. Instead, breathe slowly and deeply. Sit in a chair and do nothing except look out the window for five whole minutes. Close your eyes and see if you can hear at least 10 different noises. When it’s time to eat, chew your first bite at least 10 times before swallowing. These suggestions might seem silly, but they are all ways to calibrate our pace to the footsteps of God. He is walking through this day slowly, and He invites us to walk alongside.