I loved high school geometry.
I don’t remember much from that class except the crazy little song my teacher sang about the “square of the hypotenuse is equal to sum of the square of the legs.” But it was a great class. This teacher was waaaaay past the age of retirement but he was an old war dog who loved teaching high school. I’ll never forget him.
I was one of few girls who enjoyed math. My algebra teacher told me she thought my comfort with geometry came from sewing. I had been making my own clothes since I was nine and garment construction involves a lot of three dimensional thought and measurement. My algebra teacher was memorable as well because rumor had it she had once posed for Playboy magazine. She was a well-kept 50-year-old lady and no one knew if this was actually true but the idea certainly didn’t hurt her class enrollment.
My biggest takeaway from geometry was that “the shortest route between point A and point B is always a line.” And all lines in geometry are straight. The straightest. Any deviation from that route is not a line. It is something else. It is a squiggle, an arc, a swoop, a curve, a detour at best. It may be many things, but it most certainly is not a line. Lines are straight. Lines plow methodically from point A to point B without concern for the muck that lies between.
It occurs to me, that God is not a God of lines.
He never claimed to be. This is not to say he does not enjoy efficiency and speed and straight and narrow paths. But too many times to count, God takes us in directions that don’t make mathematical sense.
17When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
God sometimes leads in a roundabout way.
Traffic roundabouts in my world are confusing. You can get on that thing going round and round all day long until you manage to get to an outside lane and determine exactly where to jump off. The good news is, it’s a circle and you will get another chance. God’s roundabout ways are not built to confuse, but for the Hebrew people, it was not the “main” road. The main road always looks like the easiest route. It probably had the best access to food, water, and lodging. It was likely the most level and easiest terrain. Surely it was the quickest.
That’s it for me really.
I’m all about quickest. I like the shortest route; I am always anxious to get to my destination. See, I’ve never been a good traveler; just ask my parents or my long-suffering husband. I prefer to sleep through it all if possible. So the faster I can get where I am going, the happier I am.
Well, in terms of my life journey, this is not working out so well for me. Given my family genetics and the absence of natural catastrophe, I seem destined to live on earth a long time before I exit. Doggone it, doctors keep telling me I am healthy as a horse. Like the Hebrew people, I’m not on target for the quickest route. Apparently there is a journey to be made.
God had good reason for sending the Israelites on a detour.
It wasn’t to test their patience or their endurance.
Believe it or not, it was for protection.
It is important for me to realize God actually knows what battles are ahead of me. He also knows my mental stamina and my tendency to retreat. Instead of berating the Israelites for not possessing more grit, he sent them in a direction suited to keep them on track.
The rough roads we travel may be the most likely way to keep us faithful.
Life’s battles have the ability to send us off course. We get discouraged and weary. And strangely enough, we are much more comfortable with the bondage, abuse, and even boredom of our past, than the heat of a present conflict. Yet God calls us forward. I do not need to retreat to anything in my past. And when the present path seems difficult, I want to remember that God may be leading me this way to protect me from something much more formidable.
I am also intrigued by the way the Hebrew people constantly tested God’s provision. When provided with a daily allotment of manna to eat in the dessert, they greedily tried to gather enough for several days and it always got moldy by the next day. I don’t know if they didn’t trust God to give more or maybe they wanted to work harder on one day to rest the next. Perhaps they were attempting to store up a commodity to gain some economic benefit over their neighbor. Whatever the case, God spoke to me loud and clear about this recently. One day as I sat licking my ministry wounds, I heard God say,
“Quit hanging on to what I gave you yesterday.
I will not feed you on yesterday’s manna.
I have more than enough for you tomorrow.”
God knows my tendency to long for the safety of some place in the past. And his route is designed to keep me from reliving and reimagining the past. His roundabout way may seem long. It may seem senseless. It may seem squiggly. But God is an artist. His ways don’t have to be the shortest distance between point A and point B.
Instead, he is drawing a beautiful piece of art with our lives.