As a child, I remember riding in the back of my parents’ station wagon on long cross-country treks from Boston to our relatives in Colorado. My sisters and I were excited about seeing our grandmother and playing near the stream by my aunt and uncle’s cabin in the Rocky Mountains. The journey was always an adventure, particularly for my parents with three young children in tow. There was no short cut by car between Boston and the Rocky Mountains. Near our home, however, my mother knew several short cuts to local places of business. Whenever an errand in the car took longer than I expected, I asked her, “Is this the long cut?” I never minded the extended trips to Colorado, but I was always impatient with short excursions that ended up taking more time than I felt they should take.
Years later, as an adult, we lived in Norway for several years. We learned about the circuitous routes that often proved necessary to travel from one village to another. Whereas there was often a ferry available to take passengers directly across a fjord from point A to point B, the waiting times in line for the ferry were many hours during peak season. However, most people were willing to wait in line for their turn on the car ferry rather than face a grueling drive along (often steep) two-lane roads to circumvent multiple mountains to reach their destination.
For some reason, God doesn’t always choose the shortcut approach to our spiritual growth. It seems that He frequently opts to walk us through a process. As citizens of an increasingly “instant” culture, the time required to navigate a process holds little appeal for most of us. After all, in view of the fact that God IS and always will be a miracle-working God, I puzzle over the mystery of His frequent insistence that I walk through a process rather than receiving a simple zap that solves all my problems. Processes take time and certainly require more perseverance than shortcuts.
I am more patient as a cook than I am as a growing disciple of Jesus. I understand that sourdough bread gains its flavor due to a fermentation process that takes time. Most people love a slow-cooked roast with brown gravy, but the same cut of meat seared quickly in a frying pan would be tough and unappealing, if not inedible. I can taste the tremendous difference in flavor between onion soup prepared with slowly-caramelized onions and the same soup made with quickly-sautéed or (perish the thought!) instant onions. Yet, as a believer, I find myself disappointed when God refuses me the quick-fix option.
Recently I underwent a knee replacement. During the months prior to surgery, many people prayed for my knee to be healed; although I felt a measure of pain relief as a result of those prayers, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that He wanted me to trust Him through the process of surgery and recuperation. Since God created my knee in the first place, and the entire world for that matter, I was confident He could create a completely new knee with just a Word from His mouth. However, He instead chose to allow me to take the “long cut.” Not only was total knee replacement surgery itself an inconvenient and painful experience, but it also has entailed a rather lengthy therapeutic recuperation process. I have experienced weeks of mostly sleepless nights, sharp pain in my new knee as the soft tissues around it heal, and limited motion. I must force my seemingly resistant new joint to bend a few more degrees at each therapy session. As a limber person, I feel I have an alien part in my body (and I do!). This new joint is taking its sweet time to cooperate, and it is protesting in the meantime. My husband wisely commented that, since I have always had a very high pain tolerance and never felt much pain, perhaps God was giving me a compassion for people who live with pain. Ouch! That truth pierced my complaints with its validity!
The power of the process to bring deeper healing, understanding, and strength than the short-cut solution is illustrated in the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. God chose the longer route through the wilderness to protect and strengthen His people. In Exodus 13:17-18, we read: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” Even today, God wants us to be properly strengthened and equipped for battle; He wants to completely eliminate our desire to head back to the place of our former captivity. His intention is to protect us and guarantee the result He has ordained for us! In Exodus 23:28-30, God declares, “And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. ” God wants to secure our inheritance for us and equip us to be able to retain it. He wants to ensure we are properly prepared to defeat the enemy. He wants us to learn to discern His presence in the wilderness place and follow His presence through the process of moving into the promised place of wholeness and healing.
As a person accustomed to doing everything quickly, God has compelled me to slow down. My stamina, for the moment at least, has its limits. At this point, my new knee cannot bend the way my old one did; however, it will ultimately serve me better than the old one, if I persevere through the process. The new joint will be stronger and more stable than my old deteriorated joint; it will establish my gait more firmly and allow me to move more freely. The surgeon is pleased with himself, and the therapists maintain that I am merely impatient (imagine that!). Although I find the recuperative process painfully slow, I choose to trust that God has a treasure-trove of insights yet to reveal to my heart about the great power inherent in the healing process He has tailor-made for me. Lord, help me not miss a single lesson that You want to teach me. Help me be a ready listener and diligent student! Your inheritance is worth the wait!