I remember the moment like it was yesterday. John and I were in his truck driving back from an elk hunt, once again with no elk in our possession. We have affectionately come to know our noble pursuit of archery hunting in the backcountry of Colorado as “armed hiking.” After all, it is rare to see animals and even more rare to harvest one. And it was the perfect set up by the Father for what was to come next…
John was the first of many older men I have turned to for counsel on how to live in the decade of the thirties. In our conversation, one sentence he offered felt like heresy:
“There are no shortcuts in the masculine journey. No shortcuts in the Kingdom of God.”
I was almost offended. I could feel something defensive rise up in me. This couldn’t possibly be true.
It has been years since that conversation. Slowly, through one painful experience after another, through observations of my peers and culture, this piece of counsel has proven to be true. Somewhere deep in my core assumption about the restoration of the heart of a man, the idea of “no shortcuts” has moved from a disruption, to a life-giving lighthouse in a turbulent sea.
If we could embrace this one truth, it would utterly re-orient how we see, interpret and experience God.
Few have said it better than the founder of The North Face. In the great documentary 180 Degrees South, he reflects on people’s pursuit of conquering Mt. Everest. Enjoy this short film clip…
Since the beginning of time, every age has had its particular enemies. Today’s western world lives and breathes a Gospel of Now. Instant gratification is the way of our culture. It is the norm, the expectation. This “gospel” has deeply infiltrated authentic Christianity. And this core desire to have it our way and to have it now is one of the central poisons to becoming restored as a man of strength, integrity and wholeness.
When we turn to the Gospel, the story of God and His Kingdom, we find a very different reality…
- Jacob laboring 14 years to earn his bride (Genesis 29-30)
- Joseph, falsely imprisoned, pleading to be remembered by the man whose life he saved, and then “…two years passed…” (Genesis 40-41)
- The great angel, sent as an answer to Daniels prayer, held up for 21 days, in a great battle in the heavenlies against the prince of Persia… (Daniel 10)
- Abraham, known as the “father of nations”, was nearly 100 years old, and still the husband of a barren woman… (Genesis 15-17)
Jesus says it plain and simple:
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
And I appreciate A. W. Tozer’s teaching on this in Pursuit of Man:
“In my creature experience I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short, easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No shortcut exists.”
The core belief that there are shortcuts to the masculine journey has poisoned our walk with God and has crippled the process of initiation and restoration in each of our lives.
As I do an honest inventory of the last month alone, I realize in measurable ways I have been tempted by shortcuts in my marriage, my work, my health, my fitness, my finances, my parenting, my spiritual life…the list goes on.
Take twenty minutes. Bring this to the Father. Ask Him where you are trying to take a shortcut.
Most years I tackle January with an entire host of resolutions.
This year it’s different.
I want life.
I want whole-heartedness.
I want to become all that God intended me to be.
I want to stay the course of this decade of restoration. A decade of dismantling the false self. A decade of building character over building a kingdom.
For the first time, I don’t want a shortcut to the treasure. Father, forgive my unbelief. I yield to you today. I yield to the process, to the journey that is required to become all that you intended for me and through me. I yield to the long way around.
What about you?
Jesus, I need your life to lead me on this Narrow Road. Every sign post around me is offering a shortcut to life. I confess many of the places in my heart still believe that a shortcut is available. I don’t want to settle. I invite you in to minister to all the young places in my heart that are convinced that life is found in shortcuts; shortcuts for my body, my soul and my spirit. I want to walk through the narrow gate and take the narrow road that leads to LIFE. I want to travel with the few others that you suggest have found it and are finding it today. Lead me in this, Holy Spirit. Jesus, I choose to live in you, to remain in you and your life, so that together we can choose what feels like an impossibility today. And Father, I forsake the paces of independence and self determination. I forsake the abiding places of slavery and all the parts of me camped in fear. I choose to come home to you even more, as your son, your son that was lost and is found even more today than I was yesterday. I come home. God, lead me on this path. Shine your light today on the intersections and show me where and how you would have me to go.
footnote: Here are a few ideas that might be helpful. The Father led me to a phenomenal and disruptive book, Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating. Keating is older than practically any three of us put together and has walked with God for many years. This book is an antidote to short-cutting the masculine journey. It’s a hard and holy pill to swallow. I’ve given myself to the teaching and discipleship in this book for the year.
The second piece of counsel I’ve sensed from God personally is to meditate daily on Psalm 1 for the entire year. To give so much time to one psalm is disruptive for me. It is inefficient…and healing. Already since the beginning of the New Year, it has been more fruitful than I could have ever imagined.