As I sat with my feet dangling off the edge of “The Diving Board” atop Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, I gazed down at the valley floor nearly a mile below my feet and thought to myself:
“I’d get down there a heck of a lot faster if I just performed a magnificent 10 1/2 with a triple twist off this here diving board. It would be a RUSH!”
It may be a rush, but not a very long one. It would only take 18.1 seconds to fall one mile—even with the 10 flips and 3 twists. Seeing as I’m writing to all you good folks right now, I didn’t actually do it. Without a chute, a base jump off “The Diving Board” of Half Dome would end in a sudden, grisly, and untidy mess in the valley below. Even with a parachute, you have to know how to use it—and I didn’t. Instead, I hiked the 8-mile trek back down to the valley floor while experiencing some of the greatest spectacles of God’s vast and picturesque creation along the way.
When the Israelites left Egypt, there were two possible routes to the Promised Land. One route was a comfortable drive along the MCH—the Mediterranean Coast Highway—through Philistine country, and into Canaan. Just think, the Israelites could have experienced glorious ocean views, spent their Sabbath days surfing, body boarding, throwing the Frisbee around, playing sand volley ball, roasting hot dogs (Hebrew Nationals of course), and making s’mores. The second route was a hot and tedious drive along the BDR—the Boring Desert Road. Along this path, the Israelites would struggle to find fresh water, bread, and meat. There weren’t Hebrew Nationals on fresh-baked buns; they wouldn’t have coolers full of cold beer and Mt. Dew. When the Israelites came to this particular fork in the road—where one choice was “Beach Bash —Mediterranean Style” and the other choice was “Deserts and Dunes—Sinai Style,” the decision was a no-brainer. Sure, there was the potential for war along the MCH, but it was worth it…and they were ready! Right?
The Israelites thought they were ready for battle (Exodus 13:18), but God knew they were more bark than bite. God knew that once they tasted battle with the Philistines, they would either meet their demise or turn-tail and run back to Egypt (Exodus 13:17). The beach was not an option. Instead, God forced the Israelites to take the BDR, while guiding and protecting them the entire way. The BDR was the long route; the BDR was the boring route; but the BDR was the correct route—and God was leading the way:
“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
In most situations, there’s a fast, easy–and often—fun path; and then there’s a long, difficult, and tedious path. Nine out of ten times, God guides us along the long, difficult, and tedious path.
Why does He do that?
In his song “Long Way Home,” Steven Curtis Chapman sings:
I set out on a great adventure
The day my Father started leading me home
He said there’s gonna be some mountains to climb
And some valleys we’re gonna go through
But I had no way of knowing
Just how hard this journey could be
Cause the valleys are deeper
And the mountains are steeper than I ever would have dreamed
But I know we’re gonna make it
And I know we’re gonna get there soon
And I know sometimes it feels like we’re going the wrong way
But it’s just the long way home
Similar to His assessment of the Israelites, God typically knows when we’re ready to face a certain battle or not. God also knows when an army of Philistines is waiting to kill us at the end of the gorgeous coastal highway…or when a thrill-jump from the top of cliff will end in a splat. In order to avoid those deadly destinations, God often will lead us through long and strenuous—yet spectacular adventures. However, by leading us along the less than desired path, God’s intentionally protecting us from certain death…and leading us to our ultimate destination…leading us to the Promised Land…leading us home.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
—Jesus Christ, The Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 7:13-14