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Never the shortest route

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

A life lesson that keeps on evolving

coffee cup on picnic table overlooking mountains and dogs sleeping
Peaceful morning in Guatemala

I just returned from a fantastic trip with a friend to one of my favorite places in the world- Guatemala!  There was no great agenda on this trip- aside from drinking lots of coffee, relaxing, and seeing where the day took us. We actually had lots of plans that never came to fruition for one reason or another- the coffee farm tours, getting macadamia nut pancakes, hiking up to the cross in Antigua, salsa dancing, etc.

Always worth the effort

But the one thing that DID happen? Daily bible devotionals. Spending time in the Word is one of my daily priorities, always- but so often at home there is stuff that gets in the way. You need more sleep, gotta make a phone call, “I’ll do it after my run” etc, etc, etc., and next thing you know- it’s bedtime and you realized that your time to connect with God slipped right through your fingers- again.  It’s just as easy to let this happen on vacation. But for me, my time away from home and in the Word usually turns out to be an extremely clarifying and connecting experience for my faith. It’s those times when I step away from my routine, my comfort zone, my environment, and my daily grind that it gets easier to hear God.

And so in Guatemala, even though on paper it may have seemed like I did not do much of significance, I believe the opposite. I had time of quiet connection to God- reading the Bible, listening to the birds sing, feeling the sun shine, and enjoying the stillness and beauty of His creation. And I learned stuff.

Lake Atitlan volcano
Lake Atitlan

New Perspective

One morning I was reading a devotional from Desiring God, by John Piper, regarding unproductiveness (link below). The following statement hit me like a ton of bricks:

“God almost never takes the shortest route between point A and point B. The reason is that such efficiency — the efficiency of speed and directness — is not what he’s about. His purpose is to sanctify the traveler, not speed him between A and B. Frustrating human efficiency is one of God’s primary — I say primary, not secondary — means of sanctifying grace.” (John Piper)

I am a person who loves speed and efficiency, therefore patience is not always my strongest character trait. Despite my love of travel, I’m not always the “enjoy the journey” kind of girl. I almost always pack in a carry-on to avoid waiting for the baggage carousel, have Global Entry to skip through long immigration lines, and you’d better believe that I’m wearing easy to slip-off shoes and have my 3-1-1- bag ready to go for the security checkpoint. I can say without a doubt, that enroute to Guatemala, I would have loved for my direct flight to not have been cancelled. And the ensuing connecting flights to not have been delayed for 3+ hours in the middle of the night. Dealing with flights and airlines, particularly in a foreign country, is a prime example of frustrating human efficiency, and frankly- I don’t love it.

tuk tuk in San Pedro Guatemala
Tuk tuks- by FAR the most fun, yet not most efficient, mode of transportation

The divine road map is different

Similarly, waiting on God to provide answers, direction, and clarity is usually a frustrating pursuit. The reminder that God never takes the shortest route was both eye-opening and encouraging. Just because you don’t hear God’s voice or see your dream opportunity on the horizon, certainly doesn’t mean that He has forgotten you, isn’t listening to your prayers, or is purposely withholding blessings from you. With a God’s-eye view of eternity, He can see things that we can’t. He can see the interwoven fibers of our lives, and that of others’, with long-term perspective. If we got everything we wanted, when we wanted it, not only would we end up as selfish brats whom no one would want to hang around- but we’d also likely not be prepared to use those gifts to the fullest.  

Piper mentions that God’s purpose in this circuitous route is to sanctify the traveler. Per Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, sanctify means “to set apart to a sacred purpose”. That’s actually pretty cool- God is using what feels like an unproductive time in our lives to actually train us for a sacred purpose. We are not always ready for the blessings He has for us. Time, experience, patience, and waiting make us ready for it. It tests our faith and trust in God. Fine tunes our skills in prayer. Gives us practice in listening. Makes us thirsty to seek wisdom. We have the chance to grow during this difficult season of waiting, and if we see it as such, it is easier to endure. And when we finally do receive what we’ve been seeking, our appreciation for what we receive is greater and more sincere.

Take Heart

Maybe you’re in a season of frustrating unproductivity, never-ending waiting, or desperately trying to discern God’s plan for your life. Hang in there- you are being sharpened and molded into whom God wants you to be, so that you can fully take advantage of your sacred purpose. Continue to press forward in seeking Him- God is still there, still listening, and still engaged in every aspect of your life- even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Check out the full article from John Piper, “God’s Sovereign Plans Behind Your Most Unproductive Days”

And read the story of Joseph in the Bible- talk about a long and arduous journey to an amazing fulfillment of purpose!

More about Guatemala here (coffee) and here (everything)!

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