You may hate the process, but who would you be without it? The Long Road is necessary.
My husband has been in the start-up world for a year now. One day the news is promising and hopeful while the next day we feel the uncertainty of it all. It’s like mental and emotional whiplash. The unpredictability is the only predictable aspect to this job. Most who have been in the start-up scene describe something similar. It’s just how it goes. Getting a new company to fly takes time and lots of effort. It is exciting and challenging but worth every minute.
On a drive back from out of town my husband and I talked about the last year. What has been hard, discouraging, good, necessary? Our conclusions line up with the stories we read in Scripture: the Israelites in the desert, Jospeh in prison, Jonah in his rebellion, Daniel and his friends in exile, the disciples following Jesus, Mary awaiting the torture, death and resurrection of her son…The process is difficult and wearisome. Confusing, even. It will bend your back until you are on your knees. The sowing of character doesn’t happen by applying a few good pieces of advice. Humility doesn’t birth from trying really hard to be humble. Maturity is hard work, and it doesn’t come with age. God is adjusting the places we have slipped out of alignment.
We are BECOMING.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, we are growing into someone. We don’t hit our late-20’s, flip a switch and have robust character. Negative qualities left unchecked will make their way to the front of our personalities. The more we disregard them, the more rooted they become; in time, they identify us. Thankfully, God is perfectly wise. He will use the exact place we are in to grow us up. We join him by surrendering, listening and responding…or we ignore him. The outcomes look different.
I have been reading Exodus in the Old Testament. Though familiar to me, I find when I reread a portion of Scripture I notice knew details. When I actually read and sit, I take in the words. I find myself seeing it anew. This passage is worth another look:
When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. -Exodus 13:17-18 (NLT).
God rescued his people from 400 years of tortuous slavery. Their escape would route them off the main road. The way of delayed gratification. The inconvenient way. He bypassed the shorter route and opted for the 40-year wilderness path. God’s way would not do well with 21st Century Americans who believe efficiency is the highest value.
…we want it fast
…no humans to talk to
…”order on the app and have it ready when you arrive”
As a result we have become a rather inpatient bunch. But think about it, waiting fosters self-control and patience. God knew the Israelites would grow up if they took the long way. Though challenging, it was a kindness to cultivate some essential, forgotten qualities. Many were stubborn, angry, resentful and distrusting. God was protecting them from themselves. He knew the Israelites would be tempted to look at their slavery through fantasy-glasses. They pecked at Moses, “[In Egypt] we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us to death!” The years of merciless labor were disregarded. These people were beaten, overworked, mistreated and mocked. Oh how quickly we forget…
-The insatiable quality of money, but we still pine for it
-The TV show binge that leaves us empty and unproductive, but we still watch it
-The unhealthy relationship that felt like bondage, but we go back again
-The insecurity after sleeping with someone we have no life-long commitment with, but we do it again
-The parties that breed shallow friendships, but we keep settling for it
-The depression and anxiety we feel after sitting for hours on the phone scrolling through meaningless social media posts, but we pull it up again before bed
-the shopping spree that was fun until we wore everything once, but we run our credit card debt up even more
We want to go back to the things that stung us, the things that made us feel despairing. God’s way is not what we would naturally choose. And he doesn’t try to trick us by making it look appealing at first, only to trap us into his plan. The seeds he has planted require soil to be tilled, self-reflection to expose sin, and longterm tending to. Qualities that don’t come naturally must be grown inside of us by our cooperation with the Spirit of God:
These come a little at a time on the long road.
My husband and I have found ourselves on the long road. God has placed us here. He is intentional about it. We have learned this is not about mastering the skills of marketing and networking; this is about personal development. This is about growing not only in character, but in Christ. Anchored and secure. One of the values God has for us humans is that of dependency. Our can-do culture hates this word. Today, dependency is mistaken for weakness. However, the truth is, dependency is a sign of spiritual maturity and surrender. We need each other. We need the Spirit of God. We need community. We need deep friendships who carry us. The long road shapes us into a puzzle piece that makes no sense on its own. Those who don’t seek advice, who don’t have others influencing them, who don't pray and confess, who think they have all they need inside themselves, who refuse to listen to objective viewpoints, who are stubborn and trust only themselves, will end up on an island. Isolated. They will be less human and more lonely. The long road is a journey we are meant to take together. It has always worked best that way. Once you see how it works, once you see why God took you this way, you will trust it. You may hate it, but you trust it.
Take-away from your virtual Life Coach:
-Identify what challenges you are facing right now.
-Take some time alone to sit still, pray and listen.
-What adjustments is God making in you by using this particular path?
-How will this adjustment to your character serve you and those in your circle well?