Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.
-Jesus (Matthew 7:13 MSG)
There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
-Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:6 MSG)
Recently, a good friend of mine named Rob gave me a really meaningful gift. It was a book of poetry, a collection of his work from an earlier season of life. The content of the book was special, and I continue to find meaning in its words. But what made this particular gift extra meaningful was the book itself. It was handmade.
Rob has committed himself to learning the art of making hardcover books. He uses quality paper, sews the pages together, glues them, binds them, and covers them. It’s a beautiful craft that requires time, energy, mistakes, and practice in order to master. And let me tell you, a gift that takes that kind of time to create feels like a real treasure. It’s worth something because it wasn’t easy.
The good stuff always takes time. Things that hold real meaning will always be inefficient. There will always be a quicker way, an easier way, to do them. But not necessarily a better way.
It would have been quicker to just email a digital copy of the book and leave it at that. Or for the right fee, 48hrbooks.com will print and bind as many copies as you want to pay for! Our world sure is efficient!
And yet. There’s something about taking the scenic route. Something about going about life not in order to get things done efficiently, but to find lasting meaning in our actions and interactions.
Discipleship is like that. Over the years, Christians have often fallen prey to the allure of an efficient faith. An efficient faith is concerned with the easiest way to get to heaven. The focus is on knowing the right rules and principles to be a Christian, rather than knowing Jesus in the long and meandering way that relationships often form. Efficient Christianity asks how many minutes of daily prayer it takes to be a good Christian and what good works we need to do. Inefficient faith is comfortable with "wasting" time with God and others, serving wherever the need arises, and changing our schedules all over the place if it helps the relationship to deepen.
When we understand the gift of inefficiency, we start to realize a simple truth:
We cannot love that which we do not linger on.
Perhaps we need to learn to linger, in order to learn to love. That goes for our connection with Jesus and each other.
Author and Pastor Eugene Peterson says that “A disciple is a learner, but not in the academic setting of a schoolroom, rather at the work site of a craftsman.”
We cannot zip through discipleship as if we’re binge-watching a show on Netflix. If we want to be transformed into a new person that looks more like Jesus, it’s going to take some hands on practice that will take years.
And as we go, maybe then we can grow in our capacity to love others inefficiently, whether sitting down for a long coffee, offering to help with a night of childcare, or making something by hand for someone else. This creates space for connections to deepen far beyond the surface level connection. Real friendship is frequently inefficient. True love of neighbor often takes time and energy. We simply can’t rush the process if we want to make something really meaningful.
Rob now keeps a stack of his imperfect practice books on his desk to form a makeshift computer table. It’s an artistic reminder of the slow process of growth and the value of making something worthwhile, even if it takes a little more time.
Slow down with God. Slow down with others. You’re far too important to be in a constant hurry. Jesus is already with you, so what’s your rush?
Jesus, thanks for embracing the inefficiency of humanity in order to reveal yourself to us. Help us walk the long path with you.