I like short cuts.
Yesterday I was trying to find ways to teach my daughter her multiplication facts without having to resort to flashcards and mundane repetition. I asked friends with older children and checked the office supply stores for something more "fun." But I had no success. I'm settling with the truth, yet again, that for some things in life, there are no shortcuts.
At least in my head, I know that's a good thing. Discipline goes against our nature to choose the easy way. It needs to be learned, slowly whittling away at our laziness and love for comfort. Even a child needs to be taught that certain skills are acquired through painful repetition, working the same problem over and over and over again until no work is required to answer it. Hmm. I know these things to be true as I type them, and yet inside a subtle distaste lingers (remember how efficiency is just my favorite?).
There are no short cuts in our life with God. If I'm honest, sometimes I wish there were. Sometimes I wish the Bible had Cliff Notes. Sometimes I wish I could stock up on the Holy Spirit's empowering. I want to streamline my spiritual life. I want to collect more manna than one day's worth so I don't have to do it again tomorrow. (Exodus 16 tells us about the Israelites who try to streamline God's program for feeding them with manna. Not good.)
So when I lack the self-discipline to spend time connecting with God on a given day, I am as good as a flower cut from the vine. I can look good for a very short time, but an ugly demise follows; graceless parenting, and careless words are the first signs of my wilting.
John 15:3-5 says, "You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Oh, I can do something. I can complete tasks and accomplish a whole day's worth of activities and interactions with others. I can drum up a whole story of how important my jobs are and how well I've met the demands on me. But my focus starts to be on my greatness. Self-sufficiency is a very shallow well from which to draw. Through my own strength, all my efforts are lifeless instead of being life-giving.
More than I want short cuts, I want to truly love and serve people in my life. I also want to spend my energy on the tasks God has ordained for my day, and to do so without anxiety. I don't have time or energy to waste, and I believe we often tackle many things on our to-do lists that aren't on God's. So today, I'm going to remain in Him - pray, read, listen and be filled up by His strength - knowing there are no short-cuts to blooming.