Gridlock on the Sinai Expressway

Here’s a repost from 2010. -JB

If you get cranky when rush-hour turns your drive home into a 40-minute commute, imagine being stuck on the Sinai Expressway for 40-years — and on a bus filled with hundreds of other cranky passengers!  Perhaps, “road rage” is not as new a phenomenon as we might think.

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 led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea (Exodus 13:17-18).

A utilitarian brand of Christianity has been in vogue for a long time now.  Pragmatic pastors trained on the efficient business models of leadership continue to lead new Christians through practical discipleship classes with all the spiritual wisdom of the ages distilled into a powerpoint presentation with “10 basic steps” to holy living or whatever.

Yet, we must ask the question: Does deep, life-altering, identity-shaping spiritual formation follow the same training regimen as a new employee orientation at the business down the street?  Short cuts in the faith journey prevent many from experiencing the profound, life-shaping lessons that can only be learned by enrolling in God’s forty-year discipleship track.

You remember the story: God leads Moses and the Israelites to the promised land by mean of an incredibly long forty year detour.  Why?  The journey was just as important as the destination.  The means were as important as the end.  God was more concerned with WHO they were becoming than WHERE they were going.  God is in the soul-crafting, identity-forming business.  There are no short cuts on the way to becoming a holy people set apart for God’s purposes.  It takes a life-time of dirty, messy, intentional growth in the grace and knowledge of God.

In a non-stop society drinking constantly from the well of busyness and discontentment, where can we find a wilderness community trudging along slowly but surely in God’s forty-year discipleship program?  Even seminaries are biting the bait and offering more convenient short-cuts and fast tracks to pastoral training.  While I understand the apparent need for such In-Ministry and distance education programs, I still believe such folks are missing out on the value of their own escape into the wilderness of God’s instruction for an extended season of preparation.  I am grateful for my three years in the traditional seminary track that left me completely immersed in my own wilderness of listening, learning and preparing for my own vocation.  It was a sacrifice, but well worth it.

So, here’s the question of the day: While we read about the desert community who stuck it out with Moses over the long haul, learning many lessons, being shaped through obedience, disobedience, blessing and punishment.  But how many do you think chose to abandon the forty-year track and find their own short-cut to the promised land? How many were more concerned with reaching the desired destination than reaching God’s desired level of spiritual maturity?

51fwy1k6qql_sl500_Let’s settle in for the long haul and enjoy the journey as we walk with God through our own wilderness.  Even Jesus spent 30 years in God’s school of discipline before reaching his destination:

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered (Heb 5:7-8).

It’s more about the company in our car, than the scenery or destination.  “And, lo, I am with you always — even to the end of the age” (Matt 28).

For more on this topic read Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.

DESCRIPTION: “As a society, we are no less obsessed with the immediate than when Eugene Peterson first wrote this Christian classic. If anything, email and the Internet may have intensified our quest for the quick fix. But Peterson’s time-tested prescription for discipleship remains the same–a long obedience in the same direction.”

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