Have you ever taken a shortcut before? I am, in the words of one of my best friends and a faithful member of our church, an “adventurous driver.”
By that he means, that I am willing to take unknown roads to unsure destinations at, in his opinion, unsafe speeds — all to save a couple of seconds. He would say I am an individual who, in driving at least, loves to take shortcuts. I am not sure I can disagree with him.
When I was a youngster, growing up in Jackson, Ohio, I used to love to take shortcuts as I walked to school every day. I would try this way and that, hoping somehow to find a quicker way to school — well, actually, my desire was to find a quicker way home from school rather than to school.
We lived on the edge of town, and the distance to school was about a mile. To a kid in elementary school, that seemed like a hundred miles, especially in those later years, when I was hauling a trombone along with books and the like. The Brunners were an elderly couple who owned a small farm located between our house and the school. They never really farmed it, though, not that I could remember.
But that huge field was a shortcut just waiting to be taken. One day I took it. That day I encountered only two problems on that journey across that field. First, I forgot to check to see if livestock were in the field before I cut across it. That day, Mr. Brunner had left the gate to the livestock pen open, and their bull was grazing quietly over in one distant corner of the field. When he saw me cutting across the field, that bull made a running charge toward me. I did not realize until later that I was also wearing my favorite color — red!
So I took off at a full gallop for the opposite corner, my shortcut goal anyway. That’s when I encountered the second problem. My attention was now fully concentrated on the horned beast that seemed to be fully concerned with catching me, goring me and turning me into his dinner for the night. I forgot about the small nearly-stagnant farm pond that was in that pasture near the corner where I was heading!
As I turned my gaze away from the bull to make sure I was heading in the right direction, I realized the bull was chasing me right into the pond.
Fortunately, I was able to stop dead in my tracks before I got wet! I quickly moved around the pond until it was between me and the bull, which had also stopped. Backing my way to the nearest fence, I climbed through the barbed wire and then ran as fast as I could, hoping I could make it to school on time. I did not!
In the golf cart environment in which we now live, shortcuts are also a way of life. There are “shortcut” connector paths exclusively for golf carts all throughout our development.
One evening, my bride and I decided to see how much quicker taking a shortcut would be than taking the main roads. We carefully timed our route, using all three routes which are commonly called “shortcuts”. The time difference was astonishing – a grand total of 30 seconds!
What we were told were shortcuts were not really shortcuts at all!
I was reminded of this fact as I read of a lady named Heidi who spent a year on an island off the coast of South Carolina, ministering to the people there and attempting to meet their needs.
Heidi tells of one elderly lady named Miss Ellie whom she grew very fond of through that year. This lady of unknown age, but estimated to be somewhere between 90 and 100, would set off to visit one of her friends, walking miles to get to Netta’s house. The reason the trip was miles long was because there was a stream that cut through the land between their homes.
Heidi thought she could help Ellie by recruiting some people to help build a bridge across the stream. Once the bridge was complete, Heidi showed her gift to Miss Ellie and was surprised by the lack of a grateful, happy heart for the shortcut to Netta’s house.
Miss Ellie then told her that she did not need a shortcut that the journey helped her to keep up with all the friends she had made along the way. She then said, “Child, you can’t take shortcuts if you want friends in this world. Shortcuts don’t mix with love.”
As I read that story, I thought of the shortcuts that people tend to take in life, shortcuts like not doing the whole job while on the job (that’s laziness, slacking, or “sloth” as the Bible calls it), or not telling the whole truth (that is what the Bible calls lying), or not taking the whole responsibility (that is blaming others for your problems). We’ve all taken shortcuts, haven’t we?
And then I recall Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 13:34-35, where He commanded them to love one another, “even as I have loved you!” How had He loved them? First of all, He had just washed the disciples’ dirty feet. But second, “… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). He did not take a shortcut there, did He?
Aren’t you glad He didn’t?
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for. But my friends, there is nothing that should inspire within us a heart of gratitude like the fact that Jesus did not take a shortcut.
He could have, but He did not.
The reason he did not is because He knew that “Shortcuts don’t mix with love.”
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.