Living the Abbreviated Life?

Why we should beware of shortcuts...

Abbreviations – they provide a quick and easy way of designating something familiar. Why text “miles-per-hour” when “MPH” gets the job done?  That’s a 75% energy savings! And when was the last time you texted “The United States of America” rather than “USA”? Savings: 87.5%. Abbreviations save time and effort. And the effect is the same as if you had expended the time and effort in writing or saying the longer form.

Abbreviations are – in short – attractive.

So, as is our wont, we look for other places to apply the act of abbreviating in an attempt to achieve maximum results with minimum investment of time and effort. Efficiency rules! Ask any texter.

The problem is, while abbreviations are a convenience for communication, they can be lethal to your spiritual life.

At the root of almost every sin in the Bible is an attempt to abbreviate a process that requires time. Satan tempts Eve to take the forbidden fruit so that she might obtain instant wisdom, and to satisfy her selfish desires, right now. God’s restriction – according to he serpent – is evidence of His plan to frustrate Eve’s natural desire to be like Him. Why shouldn’t she know good and evil experientially? Why wait?

Satan tempts Jesus to “turn these stones into bread,” and so to take a shortcut to satisfy his hunger. Satan tempts Him to leap from the temple, and so to publicly prove himself to be God’s chosen one – instant glory. Then, he tempts him with the promise of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory…” if He would only fall down and worship him (the devil). That way, Jesus could have all the material possessions that the first Adam had surrendered in his disobedience, and so avoid the cross by obeying him. Satan is trying to get Jesus to abbreviate a process that requires trust in the father and His plan – which includes hunger, and pain, and suffering.

So, abbreviation — at least when it comes to the spiritual life and the temptation to take shortcuts — is always bad, right?

Well, wait a minute.

When Jesus turned basic tap water into fine wine at Cana, didn’t He abbreviate the process of fermentation?

And when He raised the widow’s son at Nain, He abbreviated the process of death/waiting for the resurrection, and substituted instead a revivification (i.e., her son would die again).

In stilling the storm, the Lord Jesus abbreviated the natural process of allowing the storm to run its course. He takes control supernaturally. Time is subject to Him. Which also helps explain why Jesus is never, ever in a hurry. Not even when His buddy, Lazarus, is sick and dying — He waits! Because, while time and tide wait for no man” (St. Marher, 1225), they must wait for the God-Man, Jesus.

That provides the key to understanding this irony: God taking control. Only He has the right to do that. When we attempt to take control of time, to take a shortcut to blessings, to satisfy our own lusts, hunger, desire for power – we are attempting to do something that only God can do.

We are attempting to be God. To commandeer the privilege of deity to ourselves.

That’s sin. And it’s stupid, vain (= empty-headed), and counterproductive, even when those shortcuts seem to work. Because those shortcuts short-circuit all that God wants to teach us through the process of trusting Him to provide. The really tragic part is that we may wind up at the end of our lives thinking that we got away with a shortcut. That it really did pay off – when all we really got was a Reader’s Digest version of the full novel that our life could have been. In short, we wind up settling for an abbreviated life. And abbreviated blessings.

Take the long road. Let God get you where you’re going in His time. Enjoy the journey.

If there’s an available shortcut, watch out.

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