God’s Plans Rarely Move in a Straight Line

Why Insisting on the Best Route May Keep You from Your Destination

You’ve probably heard it said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And usually that’s true. Except when we’re considering our life story – and God is involved.

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Think about it.

God’s redemptive story has unfolded throughout history with a singular purpose, but it has often taken a circuitous route, twisting and turning unexpectedly, even doubling back on itself at times.

Or so it seems to us.

So it is with our own life story.

Even when we have a clear destination in mind, the shortest distance between here and there is often anything but a straight line.

The Relationship between the Good and the Best

Jim Collins coined the phrase, “The good is the enemy of the best.” And for a lot of us that is true.

We let all manner of good things crowd our life so that we never have time to pursue our primary calling.

I know this was true for me. When I ran a Christian school, I was doing good. People reminded me of the good I was doing everyday. And they were sincerely thankful, which only made it more difficult to step away from it to follow what I believed was God’s calling to serve Him at my best.

The good kept me from pursuing the best for many years.

But there’s another side to this that is easy to miss: Sometimes our insistence on the best route can actually keep us from reaching the best destination.

Permit me to explain.

I once knew of a writer whom I approached about the possibility of working on some projects with my team. She was interested, but only if she got credit. Why? She was clear on her goal – building a platform and developing name recognition.

Consequently, she had a singular focus. I applaud that, on the one hand. On the other hand, her insisting on only moving in a direction that perfectly aligned with her destination kept her from moving forward in ways that could have helped her reach her destination faster.

The Journey Is Not the Destination

I get it, the desire to insist on the best route. But insisting on what we think is the best route can actually delay our arrival at the destination.

For example, just a few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Magic Kingdom in Disney World (my second home for those who don’t know). After watching the fireworks from Fantasyland, we hung out on Main Street after the park closed, waiting for the crowds to thin.

When we thought sufficient time had passed, we made our move – only to discover that one of the ferry boats had broken down and the lines at both the monorail and ferryboat were longer than we had ever seen them.

Our destination was the parking lot. If we had insisted on reaching the parking lot via the monorail, we would have been there for a while.

Instead, my daughter insisted that “Adventure is out there!” and pulled us toward the Contemporary Resort to see if we could simply walk around the lagoon.

As we walked, we passed the bus loading area. On the sign, we saw one of the 34 stops was the Ticket and Transportation Center (aka, the parking lot). We went to the bus stop and discovered almost no line.

A bus picked us up in a few minutes and in less time than it would usually take for a ferry to cross the lagoon, we were at the parking lot.

We arrived at our destination faster because we were willing to be flexible with how we got there. Had we insisted on a magical monorail experience, we might still be standing in line.

Commit to Continuous Course Correction

So it goes with our own life direction. Progress I have been able to make to this point has been due both to my insistence on the destination and my flexibility on how to get there.

I’ve written a lot of words for which I received no credit. No one will read them and think of me. And that’s fine.

Because the process gave me experience, developed deeper relationships, and opened connections I otherwise never would have had. My journey has not unfolded in a straight line even though I’ve maintained my course.

Because we presume that the shortest distance is the best route to take, we assume there must be some mistake when our life doesn’t unfold in a straight line. We think either God or us messed up.

But when we do so we are imposing our own finite expectations on God’s infinite plans.

We set ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment before we ever step out because we define success not only by whether we achieve our destination but also by how closely we follow the route we planned for ourselves.

One thing I learned through this process is that the vision I had in mind was smaller than God’s vision. At the very least, I have come to understand that He wants me not only to minister to others but also to empower others to achieve their dreams as a sort of Kingdom catalyst.

Consequently, I have formed a business around doing just that. (You can see more of how that has developed at BillintheBlank.com.)

Being willing to write with and for other people is what led to my next project with my friend Erick Erickson. Had I insisted that I only get credit for all I do, it never would have happened.

And now the pre-order campaign is under way. (Check out the pre-order package here. It’s pretty cool!)

Stephen Covey once offered the insight that an airplane in flight is rarely, if ever, completely on course.

If you paused it in the air and measured where it was headed based on where the nose was pointed at that instant, you would find that it was not pointed toward it’s final destination. In some cases, it could be off-course quite a bit.

And that would be normal. The pilot must make continuous course corrections to ensure it reaches the destination.

So it is with our journey to live a story worth telling.

We must commit to continuous course corrections as we step in the direction we believe God has called us. We must be willing to be flexible about how we get there even while we keep our eyes fixed on our goal.

This tension between the seen and the unseen is what living by faith is all about. [ See my post The Secret to Living by Faith. ]

We should not ignore what we can see and what we can plan. But we should not allow our life story to be dominated by them.

God’s ways are not our ways. We would do well to remember that today.

Question: Have you found this to be true on your own life journey? What opportunities are before you that , although not exactly what you want, could move you closer toward your ultimate destination? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or otherwise unhelpful.