Pince of Faith: Shortcuts often lead away from God’s will and grace

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“Let’s take the shortcut.” 

How many times have we all offered to do just this with a passenger who may have no clue about the little known or traveled side roads that get us out of traffic and blessedly on our merry way to our destination? Sometimes those infamous shortcuts are actually longer in distance, but we feel that we travel from point A to point B in less time, so it balances out in our minds.

Our computers have shortcut keys to perform basic commands, but I always have to look them up, so really not a timesaver in my book. Many years ago, before the computer age, I signed up to take a course in shorthand. When manual dictation was the only method of transcribing letters and notes, it was a means to write down minutes of meetings and other noteworthy conversations to eventually type into full sentences. All those twisted notations and squiggly marks resembled some ancient form of hieroglyphics and were illegible to the untrained eye. Male and female stenographers were in high demand and by becoming proficient in shorthand, my husband’s brother was promoted within his company to a store manager based on his skills.

One of the most famous shortcuts was accidentally taken by explorer Christopher Columbus who was born Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa in either 1450 or 1451. When he set sail from Spain, with the blessings of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and his fleet of three seaworthy vessels, he was in search of a westward route to the East Indies with the hopes of giving Spain the upper hand in the Asian spice trade. Columbus never meant to discover a new continent on his voyages. He believed he had landed in Asia, rather than the islands of the Caribbean, which is a misnomer that remains still. By the end of his life, many of his contemporaries were skeptical that he had in fact reached Asia, but according to many accounts, Columbus would never accept the fact that he had encountered another continent entirely. I suspect he could have benefited greatly from a more dependable GPS than the stars he used to guide him.

We have all heard and related aloud the bedtime story about those three little pigs. Two of the three little pigs opted for shortcuts when building their respective homes of straw and sticks, while the third wise little pig spent more time and brow sweat to ensure his home of bricks could withstand the huffing and puffing of the villainous wolf. His persistence and hard work eventually became a literal lifesaver for his two brothers after their hastily constructed dwellings succumbed to the wolf’s blustery breath.

Little Red Riding Hood decided to take a shortcut through the forbidden woods to her grandmother’s house on one legendary fateful day. Once she arrived at Grandma’s she encountered the Big Bad Wolf and fortunately for Red, a heroic woodsman saved her from that wolf who was dressed not in sheep’s clothing, but in Grandma’s nightgown. Her shortcut was nearly the cause of her demise.

I suspect that Goldilocks just might have opted to take a shortcut the fateful day she stumbled upon the home of the three bears. While they were waiting for their porridge to cool, the tale relates that the bears went for a walk and, while they were gone, a beautiful little girl with golden locks of hair entered the house, sampled their food, and after testing all three, fell sound asleep on the bed of the baby bear. When they discovered her, she quickly dashed home where she relayed her harrowing tale to her grandmother, who chalked it up to a very vivid imagination.

For those who have completed their education or are aspiring to do so, you know that acquiring a coveted diploma cannot be achieved by taking shortcuts. It requires determination, perspiration, and inspiration along with years of study and classroom attendance. All the knowledge you will eventually acquire comes at a price. You must strive for commitment to stay the course and not detour along the road to eventual success. So, take whatever amount of time and effort necessary to construct your educational house of bricks so it will withstand unforeseen problems.

Thomas Merton reflected on shortcuts, noting: “The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts. Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves, usually ignore God’s will and his grace.”

Copyright ©2023 Mary Margaret Lambert

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