Growing up as a child in my hometown of Port Glasgow I remember we seemed to have a lot of shortcuts. We had a shortcut that took us up a sort of deserted little valley between houses, that could cut a good 5 mins off our walk to school, especially important if you were running late. There was a shortcut that took about 200 meters off our school cross country course, if you could “juke” into some bushes and emerge at the other side without the PE teacher seeing you. If we thought the neighbours across the street were out, we’d take a shortcut through their garden to the big field that lay beyond, occasionally we would hear angry shouts and hope they hadn’t recognised us.
The reason shortcuts came to my mind was that I read a familiar verse in the Message translation.
And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. 2 Cor 3:18
I really wish that word gradually wasn’t there. Gradually implies slow steady progress. Gradually means progress without shortcuts.
Paul links this idea of steady progress to becoming more like Jesus. I would really like there to be a shortcut to becoming more like Jesus, but I am reminded here that it’s the journey of a lifetime and it’s about steady progress, not shortcuts. Paul is reminding us that there are no shortcuts to any place of spiritual significance. There may be times we make progress more quickly than others, but there are no shortcuts that get us to where we want to go with minimum effort.
Over 30 years ago I walked the West Highland Way, which is a walking route between Glasgow and Fort William in the Highlands. It goes through some of the most beautiful areas in Scotland but sometimes the terrain makes for slow progress. I can remember one particularly hard day`s walking on the largely uninhabited far shore of Loch Lomond. The path was broken up, it was steep in places, and it was through woodland, it felt like we were making painfully slow process. After what felt like hours and hours of walking, we emerged from the forest and were able to look on the map and see where we were. I was amazed at how far we had come.
I have had very similar experiences in my spiritual journey. There have been times when it has felt like painfully slow progress and hard going. Yet, when I look back, I am amazed at how much progress I have made. I may not have arrived, but I am further along the journey than I thought.