The following thoughts are a continuation of Part I published in the Jan. 19-15 issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. Part I can be found at urbantulsa.com.
Have you ever been driving along only to come upon a wreck, slow moving train, or construction zone? If you live in Tulsa, dodging the little orange construction barrels are just a normal part of your daily commute. As you're driving up you can tell that traffic is considerably backed up and you have just a few seconds to decide whether to wait in line or pull a u-turn right then. You've got about 10 minutes to make it 15 minutes across town, so you pull off the u-turn and cut through businesses, neighborhoods and side streets trying to get to the next block over.
Unfortunately, you weren't the first person to have this idea so now your shortcut has turned into a rather arduous journey. What was once a shortcut has quickly turned into a fifteen-minute detour. If you had just waited with everyone else you would be way ahead of where you are now.
If you're wired like me, waiting is rarely an option. We would rather be moving somewhere; even if that means moving backwards. Movement is always progress, right? Well, maybe not always.
There's a story in scripture that can be pretty easy to skip right over. It's one of those back stories (discussed in Part I) most people never see that becomes the reoccurring tale of true "success" stories.
In a matter of a few years David had gone from lowly shepherd to mighty warrior to one of the most successful generals of the King's army. This rapid rise to fame aroused jealousy in the heart of Saul and soon the great warrior David found himself a fugitive, constantly on the run from Saul and his pursuing army.
In 1 Samuel 26, Saul takes his army down to the Desert of Ziph in order to seek out David and kill him. David and a few of his spies come across Saul's camp and see Saul sleeping in the middle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground right next to him. It seemed as though David was given the perfect opportunity to kill Saul and end this season of running for his life. To most people, killing Saul would not only have signified the end of David's fugitive journey, it would also have thrust him into position to be the next king over all of Israel. It's a no-brainer, right?
This scene wasn't even the first time David had been given the opportunity to kill Saul. Many would chalk this particular scenario up to fate. It must be that God wants David to kill Saul and be done with all the running for his life.
Even David's trusted warriors, one of his closest friends tells David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands" (1 Sam 26:8). So, what would you do given the opportunity to end years of pain and begin a rocket-like journey towards success and promotion?
David's response is remarkable: "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives," he said, "the Lord himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's anointed." (1 Sam 26:9-11)
David wouldn't take the bait. In that very moment when he ignored the shortcut he knowingly took the longer route. Maybe it did make his journey longer. Maybe he did invite more pain and suffering into his life as he continued to run from Saul. Maybe he wouldn't see the palace for another ten years. I don't believe that David saw his life like so many of us see our own. It wasn't about just becoming king, it was about honoring God. It wasn't all about arriving at the so-called destination, it was about the journey God was taking him on.
David's scenario presents some fairly compelling questions: What if life is more about the journey than the destination? What if this whole thing is more about who you're becoming than what you're accomplishing? What if your gauge for success has nothing to do with how others perceive you but how God sees you? Would that perspective on life change everything?
Every day we read the headlines of people who shortcut the process. Maybe their success outgrew their character. Maybe they thought that a position, a title, a certain amount of money, or other people's approval would satisfy their deepest longings. In regards to great leaders, John Maxwell always reiterates that we may be used to instant oatmeal, coffee, and popcorn but there's no such thing as an instant leader. Leadership is a crock-pot proposition that takes time, but in the end it's always worth it. It ends up producing the kind of leaders that are worth following and that actually last.
Anytime we shortcut the process we think we've taken a big move forward; we're one step closer to our destination. In reality, the shortcut always becomes a detour. Whatever you shortcut you will eventually need to readdress. Unfortunately, too many times that shortcut is exposed rather than addressed; a lesson learned the hard way.
Please don't misunderstand, this doesn't mean you turn a four-year degree into six or stay at a job twelve years when you only needed eight. Don't confuse honoring the process as an excuse to never make the leap and risk it. You simply understand that shortcuts are many times detours in disguise. Sometimes the best idea is to actually wait in traffic like everybody else instead of racing three blocks over to find a way around.
Embrace the process. Take comfort in knowing that God measures "success" in reference to obedience, not on the expectations of you or others. Honor God first, let character, integrity, and excellence be your guide and watch as He leads you out of obscurity into the very place you were called to be. True success.
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