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the path of most resistance

Helicopter pilots on approach look for what's called the 'path of least resistance': the approach with the least amount of nastily protrusive trees, antenna and washing lines. Oh, and angrily protrusive women (or men) hanging out washing on said washing lines (true story). It's also the 'path' if the 'worst’ happens, such as an engine failure, rotor malfunction or unexpected spider bite  (it’s happened…), the subsequent ‘arrival’ (something other than a landing) will render the least amount of mutually inconvenient damage. 

The other day (as washing and other assorted debris may or may not have swirled angrily neath the 100 km/hr downdraft) it struck me (a thought, not a swirling piece of washing) the path of least resistance is a great concept for pilots but dodgy for working out the best approach (or approaches) to life.  

(By the way in terms of washing... good news and bad news...good news: the washing is now dry; bad news: its floating happily somewhere near 5000 ft and still heading west.) 

For us annoying church-going people who like to talk about Jesus and God - and sometimes even want walk this talk - 'divine' guidance is an important topic: important enough to say the 'path of least resistance' concept (also known in the ’trade' as the 'open door') is kind of, well…unsatisfying: a kind of chasing after the wind, or in this case, a chasing after wind-borne washing. Worse, often, like a Justin B song, it is neither divine nor 'guiding'. 

[For those who aren't churchy or annoying (or both) you may have just cringed at the cringe words (Jesus, God, 'wind-borne?') which is ok as long as there really is no Super Entity called God who notes the fall of every sparrow and knows your cringes (especially the desperate ones) and 2000 years ago bloodied up a callous cross with your name on His traumatised mind. If there isn't such a Super Being then…well that's another very boring, very sad story]

Anyway back to low-resistance paths and open doors.  When faced with one of those decisions Facebook calls a 'life event', the 'open door’ directive seems to involve sussing out the choice or path that seems to have the least obstacles, least resistance and, not unexpectedly, the least amount of toilsome grit. If a potential life-path is easy, or has a certain 'flow' to it, then it must be from God because surely God's will for one's life wouldn't be fused with toil or drudgery or suffering (would it?).  Instead wouldn't one expect sunflowers, tasty refreshment choccies and maybe even the faint tones of a Hans Zimmer score on the real divine path?  God's PR reps, also known as christians, are often heard to say 'wow doors are really opening' or 'I'm just waiting for God to 'open a door' or, in the negative 'God hasn't opened the door yet'. I reckon there’s a potential prob with this type of 'divine guidance’ (apart from washing tracking west at 5000 ft)

Firstly the 'guidance’ part...it isn't. What if there's ten open doors? What if you're at a point in life where circumstances, experience and qualifications mean you get 10 job offers which are 10 'open doors'. And what if they are all equally open (and attractive). Which one is the God-door? Or what if there is no open door at all? Or what if all the doors stay closed for months, even years, in a horrible door-against-the-frame silence. And why is it the open door of circumstance is often closely aligned to the open and sometimes illegitimate 'open door' desire of the heart? That is, an open door feels (oh yeah) like it's an open door because it's a soul-rotting temptation. 

Secondly, and more comprehensively, the 'divine' bit: it isn't. At least not always. One of the song-doctrines of Christianity (i.e. the doctrines that can be ‘felt’ as a song in the heart and as words on a page) is 'Immanu El' - God with us. Apart from the knee-bending wonder of a freakily bold claim the maker of the cosmos can be 'with us' who poo and pee and sing and write and work and sweat it occurs to me the whole 'direction by open door' is about as satisfying as twitter without a smart phone when one wants to constrain the ‘Immanu’ part to ‘oh great where’s my open door'. Surely, in terms of life-counsel, if we are truly cohabitant with the G of the U, then we can do better than the slightly uncertain swing of a hinge?  

So little Christian of mine, 2000 years ago I took the thorns, the nails and the spear, I took the corpse-cold tomb, I smashed death and Hades, I broke out of the grave and at Pentecost poured out the essence of myself into your three dimensional existence so we could be one and you could truly live and love and now,  just look for that open door… yep wait for it, wait for the swing, here it comes and yep…there it is, open door and now you have my direction... that's what my blood price bought: circumstantial, open tarot-door direction' 

I kinda think that's commonsensically silly. 

And it's also theologically silly (well so says me who is better at interpreting flight manuals and phantom comics than the bible so take this next bit for what its worth). It's theologically silly because of the many ways in which God communicates in the bible: not one of which is an open door and all of which prefigure God who is really 'Immanu-El' infusing our souls with the nearest of nearnesses in the magnificent Holy Spirit.  

There's the cool-of-the-evening nearness chats in the very well managed, phosphate-free garden called Eden (Gen 3:8); there's the voice to the pre-murderous Cain warning of the crouching dog called sin (Gen 4:6); there's the voice from beneath a million stars and the voice neath the great oak to a desert wanderer called Abram; there's the loud, terrible, horrible voice from Sinai; there's the (my favourite) trend-breaking still small voice to Elijah after the voiceless but loud wind, fire and earthquake (so passé wind, fire, earthquake comms - only small 'g' gods do it that way); and finally, after thousands of years, there's the voice of a carpenter's son who can't be silenced even by the stillness of a tomb. 

Then there's all the direct promises of guidance (not one which says 'you shall henceforth be directed in life by the next open door'). Take just a few from Psalms, the Rock songs of the bible: Psalm 25:8 'Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He instructs sinners in His ways' and Psalm 32:8 'I will teach you in the way you should go' Then this from the new testament: 1 John 2:27 which tell us the 'anointing'; that is, the beautiful Holy Spirit who is very literally-spiritually with us, who 'teaches us about all things'. 

All of this seems a galaxy more exciting than 'ok, little Christian, I will lead you and guide you by an open door'. 

In fact many times in the bible God speaks in 'loudly' supernatural ways because dopey people 'see' only closed doors. There is nothing apparently open, or even a quarter open, and so they choose to stay in close company with Mr Status Quo. Take Gideon. There he is with the unenviable challenge of threshing out wheat in a winepress - on the sly from marauders - when a supernatural messenger shows up and says 'The Lord is with you mighty warrior' and informs Gideon he is about to be called up for deliverance ministries. Gideon's prompt and whingey rebuttal involves a 'closed' door policy: 'my country is weak', 'my family is the weakest', 'I'm the weakest’ etc etc... As far as Gideon is concerned the deliverance door is up against the door jam. In fact if the open-door policy was at play the story would have ended right there with Gideon still threshing wheat in a hole in the ground. But the story doesn't end there because despite closed doors of seized human will and rusted human commitment, the beautiful and powerful voice of God does what it always does: encourages, energises and empowers in sovereign dislike for 'closed' doors'. 

I especially like the 'closed door' of about a trillion tonnes of impassable  water (also known as the red sea) and the closed door of a city called Jericho  smashed down and 'opened' by round-robin music.  And of course who could forget the 'closed' stone door of the Easter tomb. God really does 'speak' to Christians today through the broad flow of the bible and through the specific, refereeing peace of God which comes from the directing presence of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Tony Stark, that's how my daddy did it, that's how my Grand Daddy did it, that's how America does it and so far its worked out pretty darn well: cue massive background explosion… Anyway, I deliberately don't want to spend too much of my word count on this bit for two reasons; one the word count is already more bloated than my tummy after sarukraut and Christmas rollmops and two, there's a heap of other guys better than myself theologising on this who divine guidance thing. 

But one verse I would like to comment on….

It's a certain verse from the last book of the bible which unfortunately got a little too much leg spin on it when bowled by the aforementioned PR guys (by the way PR could also stand for 'Poorly Read'). It goes like this: 'See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut…' Rev 3:8. People quote this and you sometimes get the feeling it's a Christian tarot card: hmm, come on in little Christian looking for career guidance, lets see what the cards say… no not that card, not the one with the crow or the jester or the lovers, yeah, yep that one, the one with the doorframe and the open door. Yep, no go through and become [insert X] here. 

I should fess up here and say I actually know this open door verse really well. I have a framed painting of an army training helicopter approaching a property in North Eastern Victoria. Written in fine print on one of the logs in the paddock are these words: 'See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut…'

They are very special words to me because I nearly blew pilots course after failing a crucial fixed-wing flight test. Before the remedial test, also known as a scrub ride, my mum and dad sent me these words which bypassed my stress riddled brain and went straight to the soul with the divine message that Army pilot's training was not closed until God said it was closed. Massive encouragement. Better than a hundred dollar iTunes card at Christmas. I subsequently did a very mediocre job on the remedial test but passed anyway. Later I would dux the next phase of the course, the helicopter phase, in a kind of 'whether you finish last or finish first on this course it's open till I say it's closed' sermon from God. And still later my mum and dad would present this painting to me, taken from a photo of me approaching to my mum and dad's farm (yes along the path of least resistance) after the path of most resistance had already been conquered.

And that's the essence of this verse. The context (always a spin stopper) says the open door is the one which has been opened by the key of David, a key only Jesus holds, a key to the door of salvation and oneness with the very special Lord God Almighty. The point is that door to Him has been opened and no one can close it. Yeah, I get it. For me the partial application was that pilots training was still open but that was just a peripheral message - the real message was, right there in the stressed out night before flight-tested circuits, spins, loops and emergencies: Immanuel. Immanuel…an open door to God with us, to God with me. That was v. comforting. The door open - open to oneness with Jesus, salvation, deliverance and yep, the path of oneness with Him was in and through the path of most resistance also known as Army pilots course. It was not a divine tarot card, or a 'sign', it was instead a reminder of Immanuel, of God with me. 

Which brings me back the path of least resistance. If the v. awesome Lord Jesus had chosen this path then there would never have been the excruciating victory of the cross and of the tomb and we would still be hopelessly decaying internally, externally and eternally. Open-door, least-resistance seeking eyes could have looked up that long, rocky path towards golgotha and mused: "cross, suffering, wounds, insults and death…uh no, that door is definitely closed…” 

But with stunning determination the son of God gritted His divine teeth, walked, carried and stumbled His way up the path of most resistance to bleed out and die for the whole universe. 

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And just in case we wanted some wriggle room as His followers, he took the wriggle out of the wriggle room by commanding all of us to follow him up that path, the one with the cross  - every day… 

'If anyone would come after me, he just deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me' Luke 9:23. 

Not very open-doorish or path-of-least resistance-ish at all. 

Not even one bit. 


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