How about we start a new week? And for mine, I’d like to stay at home for 24 hours straight at least once in the coming week. I went from Huntsville to Dallas, Texas to Huntsville to Chattanooga, Tennessee to Corinth, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee to Huntsville to Chattanooga to Huntsville to Chattanooga to Huntsville between the last two week-ends. If anyone looked at a map with this trajectory, she’d say I zig-zagged my week away! She would be right.
Sometimes it seems that way spiritually and mentally, too. When schedule obligations collide with time limitations—when unexpected and close-to-catastrophic events are suddenly added to an already minute-to-minute schedule, we adapt a survival mode that’s nothing like normalcy. (We go places without combing our hair. Pajamas are okay for Dollar General. Brushing our teeth takes about 20 seconds. We thank God for fast food that we try to avoid , otherwise. When cleaning for company, we say “Oh well, it’s just a cabin; not the Ritz.” If holes and dirt and stains are hidden on the little people we are dressing—or if they can be—then we pretend they are not really there.) We’re just trying to get through things—funerals, procedures, croup, ear infections, stomach flu, ladies days,—in one piece and with lots of prayer, albeit prayer often spoken while moving quickly.
About that zigging and zagging. I think a lot about how to combine or even avoid trips to the same proximity. But, despite best efforts, my life map looks like a child’s scribble back and forth in the same spot on a piece of messy paper. Thinking about this last night, I realized that it’s often the zig-zag here on earth that makes the straightest line toward heaven. It’s the going back and forth from crisis to crisis on this planet that best prepares, tests and grows me toward a perfect place of stability and rest. Sometimes the zig-zag is the direct route to peace.
These earthly routes are tests. (Sometimes I know my “grade” is not a passing one. So thankful for grace.) Going over and over the same ground in my little world is preparation for rest in His big world. He never meant for me to be “at home” in this life. (Good thing!) He’s placed me in the perfect realm for testing. He gives me the scenarios that give me choices. His Holy Spirit said as much in James 1:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Can I keep doing the ‘next right thing’ even when it becomes extremely challenging, physically and emotionally? Can I say with confidence that I’m going to be okay through this survival mode, no matter how long it lasts, because He is my strength and refuge…the ever present help, no matter where I am on the zig-zag (Psalm 46)? Can I even treat other people with kindness and generosity, when I’m feeling like someone or some ones are not being kind to me? All the angst of the zig-zag is to be expected. The way of life is constricted. The gate is narrow and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14). I’ve got an idea that most of those who do, will have done some zig-zagging in survival mode.
Life is ultimately a test. The quicker we learn that reality, the easier the trials will be. My focus must be passing the tests of my faith; the short-term challenges that will, in one eternal day seem like nothing. The trials are but for a moment, and we should praise Him that we are being “processed” for heaven through them!
One last thing. Have you ever thought about the fact that Job never knew about that day that God encountered the devil and said “Have you thought about my servant Job?” (Job 1)? Job did a lot of zig-zagging from that point on in his life. He went over and over and over exactly why all of this was happening. He walked into doubt and back again, several times. He walked into the valley of the shadow of death and back again, with multiple loved ones. He walked into extremely poor health and back again. He walked into frustration with those who were his accusers, and back again.
Through all of His changes, Job knew that God had none. When I can come to understand this, the zig-zags of this life will not be wasted on me. They will be purposeful, even powerful, in the deliverance of His grace.
Job 23:13-14 – “But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that He does. For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind.”