A few years ago, I flew to China. I was excited to explore the culture and enhance my chop stick skills. I was less excited about the flight. I expected it to be tedious and watery. I was wrong on both counts. The flight flew by (sorry for the pun) and I could barely see ocean. I assumed going from Vancouver to Beijing direct, would take me over the Pacific. But, the flight map showed a curved line going over Alaska, Russia and Japan. How could I get to China without crossing the ocean?
My error was using two dimensional thinking for a three dimensional world. On any flat map, the shortest route from BC to China is a straight line over the waves. But the world is not flat. The actual journey in a three dimensional world, is a westerly curved line up over the ocean and landing in Beijing. On a flat map it look wrong. In reality, it is the shortest route.
This is not supposed to be a cartography lesson - so why write about it? Simply because, the mistake I made for my flight is the same mistake we often make for our spiritual journey. We assume we know the direct route to our intended hopes and goals. We are surprised - if not confused, by the path that God takes us. It feels like God is leading us the long way around. Unanswered prayers. Divergent directions. Unplanned stops. Unavoidable obstacles. Retraced steps. This isn’t the journey we had in mind! God’s itinerary for our soul lacks speed and efficiency - so we think. But remember, we can’t use a two dimensional perspective to understand spiritual realities. No pilgrim journeys in a direct straight line.
“Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him - and He will direct your paths.” (Prov.3:5,6) The words are easy to type or quote. They are harder to live by. We prefer to advise God and offer course corrections. We are sure that our sense of spiritual direction is reliable. But, God sees more than we see. God knows more than any brain could ever hold. His heavenly perspective is higher than our earthly experience. The curved lines He draws for our lives baffle, but His leading is always from love. Our following should always be from faith. Faith is the practiced ability to trust the Heart, Head and Hand of God - and follow. I have no doubt that when we ultimately arrive in heaven and spread the map of our lives out on the counters of glory, not only will it make sense - but we will celebrate His grace.