In life, I have found that excellence and ease rarely go hand in hand. Yet we live in a time when ease is the first choice we tend to make. We follow the crowd, do things the in same way; we see other people doing it, and rarely do we try something new or something that seems truly difficult. This paradigm reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost.
“The Road Not Taken” (Hear it here)
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as far,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on the way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Like Robert Frost’s challenge, God’s call to us is not toward the easy but toward the excellent. His direction often challenges us to take the less traveled path. It may be harder or even seemingly impossible but it allows Him to shine through in us.
Scripture shares the story of Gideon in Judges chapter 6 – 8.
God chooses Gideon to do something great and deliver the people of Israel from the Midianites. From the very beginning, Gideon makes his inadequacy clear, he makes excuses first telling God why He needs to choose someone else then asking for sign after sign that this assignment is the direction of God. Isn’t this often our own tendency when the desire to take the road of ease meets with the truth that God is directing us to a less certain path? We, like Gideon grapple with the impulse to make excuses as an easy way out. We say things like “that will not work”, or “we have never done it that way before.” We find ourselves doing our best to find the reason not to try. We choose ease, not only because it involves little effort, but because it involves little consequence as well. Excellence as a leader demands that we abandon the inclinations of logic apart from faith and move forward in the knowledge that with God, we can.
Despite Gideon’s initial response, God was not finished. An army of 135,000 men had invaded Israel and Gideon managed to field an army of 32,000. The odds were not in Gideon’s favor: fighting 4 to 1, but it still would have been easier than what came next. 22,000 were afraid and left before the battle had even begun. Now it was an army of 135,000 versus 10,000. The terrible odds stood at 13 to 1. Next, God had Gideon send home 9,700 more soldiers leaving only 300 to fight for Israel. So there they were, 300 versus 135,000 or 450 to 1.
Now, I would be preparing to arm these guys to the teeth!Give them every weapon known to man and then some because they would need it!
Yet God told Gideon to give them only a pitcher, a torch, and a trumpet. No sword, no shield, no spear, not even a knife. 300 unarmed men against an invading army of 135,000. Gideon somehow managed to walk away from “easy” and instead chose to trust God. The rest, as they say, is history because at the end of the day, 300 unarmed men defeated an army of 135,000 and left only 15,000 survivors!
“Easy” would have been saying ‘no’ to the call.
“Easy” would have been continuing to ask for signs.
“Easy” would have been keeping the entire army of 32,000 or at least the 10,000.
“Easy” would have been arming that small contingent of soldiers, but “easy” would not have made history.
So my question is:
Are we choosing a life of ease or of excellence? Do we automatically select the option requiring the least amount of effort or risk involved?
Do we search for the path requiring the least amount of trust in God, or do we choose the road less traveled and experience something new, something adventurous, something thrilling?
Truly, choosing a path based on intellect apart from faith, taking the easy road which everyone else has taken, doesn’t always hurt or make us smart, it just makes us a follower. Instead, God has called us to be leaders, to step outside of a life of ease and into the unknown. So the next time you find yourself caught in the choice between what is easy and something far more challenging, step out in faith and experience the unknown!
Don’t settle for anything less than the excellence of making history yourself!