Since moving to Florida, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this move has been getting to know our neighbors here. They have come from all over the world, from places like Timmins, Ontario, in Canada, and Durban, in South Africa. We have new friends who hail from Massachusetts, and Utah, and Louisville, Kentucky, and, yes, even Cleveland, Ohio!
In almost every case, one of the first things we talk about is where we come from. Generally speaking, most of the time people KNOW where I come from, since my golf cart and almost every piece of clothing I own are blazoned with the logo of The Ohio State University. Not a day goes by that I do not hear either a “Go Bucks!” cheer, or an “O-H…!” yell as I pass them in my cart.
But the most fascinating part of even those encounters is getting to know the people and their “stories”. Two of our neighbors have for years been coming to this community for the winters. Butt within the past month, both of them have sold their homes “up north” (one in Cleveland, and the other in Louisville), and are in the process of moving, as we did, lock, stock, and barrel to their homes here.
For many, to make that decision is a difficult one at best — as it was for us, but we have all found that our lives have taken us in often-circuitous routes to get to the place where we are here and now.
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” You and I have heard that expression since we were knee-high to a caterpillar, haven’t we? Whether sitting in geometry class, or helping our fathers cut a piece of lumber for a home building project, or simply getting directions to the store for the first time from our Mom, those words were issued as a timeless maxim that would never lose its truthfulness.
We have never ever doubted them — until now.
When I look into the Scriptures, particularly at the life of Moses and his leadership of the people out of the land of Egypt, I am impressed by the fact that Moses was never a student in geometry class. As a matter of fact, the principle that God seemed to use in guiding the people of Israel out of Egypt is “the shortest distance between two points is a zig-zag!”
One Bible scholar has commented that the Exodus out of Egypt was a short 11-day trip (at the most!) that took Moses and the people of Israel 40 years to complete. The line that he led the people of Israel on took them through seas and deserts, mountains and wilderness. It was definitely not the shortest distance between the land of Egypt and the land of God’s promised blessing. But it was a route of God’s choosing and God’s direction.
Sometimes, in God’s handling of our lives, it seems as though He must think that same way for us as well — that the shortest distance between two points is a zig-zag! We become convinced that God wants us to be married, but there are no prospects for marriage in our future. We are sure that God is leading us in a certain direction career-wise, but the doors toward that career just don’t seem to be open.
We are positive that God wants us to have a powerful testimony through our family, but we discover that there are no children in our future. And yes, we even make decisions to live “for the rest of our lives” in one place, one home, only to find ourselves picking up and packing up and moving to a completely different place.
The directions that God seems to be taking us in the course of our lives are definitely not in a straight line.
The question is “Why?” Why would God choose to lead us on the zig-zag course rather than the direct route? Why the scenic route rather than the Interstate highway?
As I read the account of the Exodus, it seems to me that the nation of Israel was not yet ready for the straight route. They had just been through 400 years of slave mentality, and that was not going to go away overnight (or even in 11 days!). Before they could enter the Promised Land, they first needed to go through other experiences which God had planned to prepare them for life in the land of blessing.
And to keep them from becoming discouraged, God provided various reminders of His good intentions as well as a tangible sense of His powerful presence. He provided manna, quail, a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
The lesson God would have us to learn from this is that the zig-zags in this life are preparation for life in the Promised Land. No matter where we live, or what we are doing, God is using the experiences we encounter in this life to prepare us for the life to come. Thus, God wants to drive us to our knees daily in dependence upon Him for our provision and protection. That is why the shortest distance between two points is often a zig-zag!
Thank God today for the zig-zags in your life!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Wilmington News Journal and the Hillsboro Times-Gazette. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC, Port William, and of the Faith Community Church in Hillsboro.