The Shortcut

“The Shortcut,” New Era, June 1990, 26

The Shortcut

Taking the detour seemed harmless until I made a wrong turn. When I stubbornly refused to turn back, I found myself in a thorny spot.

Like many people my age, whenever the stake leaders come to our ward, I brace myself for an hour or two of lessons on morality and the danger of straying from the gospel path. I had never thought much about what they said or even really understood what it was like to get off the “strait and narrow path” until I had a rather painful experience.

My family lives out in what is affectionately referred to as “the sticks.” Next to our property are remnants of an abandoned plantation. The only secure building is a rickety old barn with a loft brimming with hay. Over the years this has become a favorite haunt of mine.

My lesson came when I was attempting to make my way towards the barn to mull over a problem a friend had asked advice on. In order to get there one must follow an almost hidden path along the stream to an old road. I had never experienced the obstacle of fallen leaves on the path before, so I was paying careful attention to the stream in order to stay at least close to the path.

After a while I felt this was unnecessarily laborious and time-consuming. I tried a shortcut, which I thought would not be a bad idea as long as I stayed within sight of the stream.

I was wrong. In the woods one cannot stray too far from the path or he will end up in an undesirable place. Well, I ended up making a wrong turn.

When I finally realized that I was going the wrong way and would not be meeting up with the stream, I did not immediately turn around and try to retrace my steps. Instead, I thought I knew what I was doing, so I fought on through the tangle of trees. Suddenly I realized I was surrounded by the largest bunch of wild rosebushes I had ever seen. Being dressed in a T-shirt, shorts, and an old pair of deck shoes, I was not overjoyed at the prospect of fighting my way out of this predicament.

My dog, Peppy, had followed and when we arrived in this area tried several times to divert my attention and show me an easy way out. But my ego would not let me follow a dog. How could he know where I wanted to go? Eventually I got to the field next to the barn and then reached my destination, but not without much struggle and pain.

The Lord has prepared a path for us to follow. When we stray off that path, we may end up in the briars along the sides. When we take off looking for shortcuts and byways, we are sending ourselves unprotected into the thorns where we have to fight our way back to the original path. Sometimes we get hurt in the process. Never mind what peers may say, those side paths are more difficult than the Lord’s. Once we take one of these side paths our wounds remind us to be wary of detours.

Though the Lord’s path may at times seem hard or tedious, it is a much easier and less painful route than through the thorns.

Illustrated by Richard Hull