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Chaplain's Corner: Recognizing shortcuts and cutting corners

By Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Hill | JBER Chaplain | April 14, 2016


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

I sometimes consider myself a master of shortcuts and the path of least resistance. The feeling of somehow getting an upper hand, gaming the system, or getting by the easy way can be more satisfying than many of us might like to admit. 

Recently while walking a sidewalk with dirt edges all around both sides of the concrete, I began to consider what led to this condition. It was clear that for a very long time too many folks had been stepping off the sidewalk, rounding the corner and thus, not giving the grass a fighting chance to grow up along the walkway. Perhaps it's silly, but each morning as I walked this path it irritated me to see how many folks had taken this shortcut and made a mess of what would have been a more attractive lawn. 

The hypocrisy of the situation was not lost on me. I have already admitted to enjoying the thrill of finding and utilizing shortcuts. So I began to ask myself, why does this bother me so much?

What irritated me the most is by perpetually taking this shortcut, the violators were destroying the aesthetics of this particular lawn. Indeed, the shortcuts of so many lawn-walking violators had destroyed the lawn and created a pretty ugly situation.

It was the days just before Easter when I first noticed this particular sidewalk and began to consider the desecration of the lawn. As a Christian, it struck me there was no shortcut for Jesus when it came to his experience on the cross.  In fact, in the hours previous to his death Jesus even prayed to God asking if there was any other way to accomplish the mission without his journey to the cross.

Though he had the power to shortcut the situation, for our sake there was no path of least resistance that could produce the same result. There was no shortcut or substitute action Jesus could have opted into. The humiliation of being stripped naked, flogged, mocked, and insulted was the precursor of being physically attached to a log - literally nailed to a wooden crossbeam and being lifted off the ground to be displayed in front of all in attendance. 

The ugliness of my sin was removed by the incredible sacrifice of a man willing to bear those offenses and receive the penalty I should have received. I committed the sin, but Jesus paid the consequence.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)
I am so very grateful Jesus was unwilling to game the system or settle for any compromise that would not fully resolve the punishment.

In the weeks following the connection between this ugly lawn and my own sin, I have often thought about the shortcuts in my life. While experimenting to find the fastest route to work may be an inherently harmless pursuit, there are far more dangerous shortcuts that could have more substantive risks. Offenses such as cheating and stealing are often rooted in what may have started as seemingly harmless shortcuts. 

So often what starts as a small or apparently harmless activity can take on a life of its own when we begin to compromise our values and standards. When the first few hundred folks cut the sidewalk, the grass probably had a fighting chance to survive. But with the repeated action day after day, week after week, there would be no chance for healthy grass to grow. 

I encourage you take some time this week asking yourself if there are places in your life where the shortcuts are actually causing more harm than first meets the eye. The accumulated results of compromised values and ethical decisions will ultimately manifest ugliness no one wants to look
at or experience.