Friday, January 18, 2008

Psalm 27: The Shortest Distance between Two Points

"Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my enemies." (v.11)

My Dad was the guru of shortcuts. He lived on an endless quest for the shortest route to all of the places to which he regularly drove. My Mom used to kid my Dad that most of his shortcuts were in fact "longcuts." In his search for the shortest distance to wherever, my Dad would say again and again, "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line."

The life to which God has called us is the ultimate straight line. This line starts with dead rebels and ends with people alive and reformed into the likeness of God's Son. The problem is that our living is seldom a straight line. We all take daily detours of thought and desire that move us off the straight path that God has placed us on by his grace. He has redeemed us from the jungle of our rebellion, lust, autonomy, foolishness, and self-focus and placed us on the narrow pathway of his Son. The problem is that we all tend to get tricked into taking detours that get us off God's path and into trouble.

Our problem is two-fold. First we get diverted because we are impatient. The trip to where God is taking us is not an event, it's a process. And the process isn't easy. God's road takes us through the heat of the sun, through storms and cold, through the dark of night, through loneliness and confusion. So, we get tired and impatient and begin to convince ourselves that there's a better way. But, this isn't all. We get diverted because we're disloyal. Our hearts aren't yet fully committed to God's glory and his kingdom. We're still attracted to the shadow glories of creation and we still carry around in us allegiance to the small-agenda purposes of the kingdom of self. So in our impatience and disloyalty, we see pathways that appear easier and more comfortable, but they only ever lead to danger.

There's no time when this temptation is more powerful than when we're facing difficulty. This is exactly what the verse we're considering recognizes. When you are being hammered by the enemy, it's very tempting to debate within yourself as to whether God's way is the best way. It starts with bad attitudes. Perhaps you begin to doubt God, doubt his goodness, and question his love. Perhaps you give way to anger, impatience, and irritation. Or maybe you begin to allow yourself to envy. You wonder why the guy next to you has such an easy life, when yours is so hard. These bad attitudes lead to bad habits. You quit praying because you reason that it doesn't seem to be doing any good. You stop reading your Bible because those promises don't seem to be coming true in your life. You quit attending your small group because you can't stand to hear the stories of God's love that others share, when your life is so hard. You even begin to give yourself reason for missing the Sunday worship service, reasons you once wouldn't have given yourself. Before too long there's a coldness and distance in your relationship with God that would have shocked you in the early days of your faith. Your difficulty has deceived you into thinking that you've reason for wandering off God's straight path, and your attitudes and habits have placed you on the dangerous side-paths of the kingdom of self.

Have you gotten off God's straight path? Have you given yourself reason to take side-paths? How about praying, once again today, "Teach me your way, O Lord, lead me in a straight path."?

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