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COLUMN: Take your time — don’t run to the top of the mountain

There was a sign in the window of a restaurant on the square of a little town in Georgia that read: Pies like Mama used to make — $5.00. Pies like Mama tried but could not make — $7.50.

How many things in our lives challenge us to seek the familiar — the food prepared like our Mama made, the house like we grew up, the family setting we still nostalgically hold in esteem in our lives — in short, the things that desired because they are what we are used to doing or having?

I have known people who had an exceptional experience on a vacation in one place, so they tried to replicate it each year, returning to the same place, staying in the same room and hoping to repeat the joy of the last year.

More often than not, they decried the repeat visit with the words: It just was not the same. The danger in trying to replicate a an experience in the past is that there is an expectation, a bar to reach, a standard to meet.

This ignores the fact that what made the first experience wonderful was that it had no fixed expectations. Instead it was the unknown, new and uncharted. Everything that happened was fresh, and usually surprising. That is what made the experience wonderful. It had never happened before.

Jesus invited the disciples into new things. Sure, He was famous for His structure (going to worship, as was his custom). The newness of each day — and the fact that He went from experience to experience meeting needs … encouraging people … seeing new sights …  teaching new lessons … telling new stories .. and generally going with the flow of life — offers us an example and hope.

This example shows that we must not dig our heels into life with such unyielding determination not to allow our lives to progress. If we do, we miss out on so many experiences that God offers us. The hope is that around each corner in life is something new and exciting, defying routine and encouraging creativity.

This is the very basis of our being a people of Why not? rather than Why?

The real blessing of God walking with us each day is the same blessing of going on a hike through unknown territory — around each bend, there is something new. This keeps the travel fresh and special and offers new experiences along the way.

I lost a friend and parishioner a few weeks ago. At his funeral I shared what his son had said:

“When Dad and I hiked in the mountains, I would run to the top and invariably be called back down to where my Dad was deliberately walking the trail, not missing a thing. When I got back to him, he would show me a plant, a formation, a vista … something that I had missed by not paying attention as I worked only to get to the top.”

Part of the gift of following Jesus is taking life at His pace as He points out the really neat things we can see, experience and be blessed by along the way we have never traveled before. The road less traveled was really Jesus’ idea. Sometimes the dream is more valuable than repeating the routine.

(Dr. Jimmy Elder’s column originally appeared in The Guide, a weekly publication for members of the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Ga. He may be reached by email:

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