We love shortcuts. We love anything that makes other things go faster. We love microwaves and fast food. We love instant pudding, rather pre-made pudding cups. There’s nothing we don’t like if we can get it or do it faster. That’s life in America (or any “first-world” nation, I’d wager).
It’s often later that we think about the consequences of said shortcuts – usually after the bill comes due.
It wasn’t until I read the novelized version of The Empire Strikes Back that I realized that the Dark Side was simply the result of a shortcut. Yoda made it clear to Luke that the Dark Side is not more powerful, but is the result of bypassing the groundwork of self-control that the Jedi required. It is acting rashly, impulsively, and giving in to emotional outbursts – that is where the Dark Side’s power comes from. We totally see that in Anakin (especially in contrast to Obi-Wan) in The Revenge of the Sith.
Need another movie example? I’ve got a doozy! In the movie Road Trip (not a Christian movie, BTW), the four young men on their way across the country attempt to take a shortcut on a gravel road through the country. The shortcut goes bad when they come to a bridge that is out. They are then forced with the dilemma of back-tracking all the way back to the main road and wasting all the time they took to get there… Or they could attempt to jump the bridge. Four twenty-year-old men, of course, decide to play Dukes of Hazard. They make the jump, but the axles get bent, the tires fall off the car, and then the car bursts into flames as they are walking away from it.
We could talk about the dangers of genetically modified fruits and vegetables, caged and steroid-injected meat-bearing animals, not to mention heavily sugar- and preservative-laden foods lining the shelves of your local grocery. Organic is healthier, but takes more energy to produce, thus driving the costs up over their unhealthier counterparts.
We all have the best intentions when taking a shortcut – usually, to simply save time, money, and/or resources. This does not make us bad people. Heck, even Anakin Skywalker was trying to take a shortcut to find a way to save the life of his wife! The noblest reason for a shortcut led him down the path to the Dark Side and to become one of the most fear-inducing villains of all time.
This is a reminder to me and those like me who feel the call to ministry. I didn’t go to bible college or seminary – this, trust me, was not a shortcut in itself. I have taken advantage of ministry opportunities as they’ve become available, and even made it known that I am available for various events. I have not sought out speaking engagements. I have volunteered and served for years… It’s part of the process. The last thing I want to do, paraphrasing my pastor/mentor, is to create an Ishmael while waiting for my promised Issac.
Ishmael was the result of a shortcut. Abraham decided to bypass God’s promise and try to add his own effort to what God said he would do. I’ve had visions and confirmations about the ministry God has for me. It was even spoken over me before the age of 12 that I would be a preacher… I have been tempted to help God get the ball rolling. Luckily, I was warned against it when I took my ideas to my spiritual father.
Sometimes when you take a shortcut off the beaten path, all you have to deal with is a bumpy road. Sometimes taking a shortcut through the woods will get you there faster, but also get you mean case of dermatitis (poison ivy). Every time you take a shortcut in ministry, even if things seem to look like they turned out alright, you miss out on a blessing – a blessing that would have been found in the preparation/training time (the meantime, as our church’s bishop likes to say).
I want to take the next step. I want to leap shouting “Geronimo” the whole way down if need be… But that would be a mistake. There is something that is not yet aligned. Maybe it’s me, my wife, or my kids. Maybe the timing is just not right and the failure I would find by starting too soon would be too devastating for me to continue (it’s happened to ministers in my family, it could just as easily happen to me).
I will wait until I get the green light.
I will follow the path before me.
I will trust in Him and His timing.
I will have patience in the preparation.
I will make it through the meantime.