As our games grow larger and open-world gaming via an overworld map or at least a hub world has become the standard operating procedure for almost every major title that releases, a new experience has become just as standard… the fast travel button. When you have areas to explore that can literally take over an hour of real world time to traverse, or in the case of select titles areas that simply do not connect to each other without the fast travel method, this has become less of a convenience and more of a necessity. Could you imagine walking across the world of Skyrim each and every time a quest requires you to deliver medicine to someone in another zip code? Or enduring the travel time it would take to fly from one planet to another to participate in an event in Destiny? Suffice to say many of our favorite titles would become virtually unplayable without this built-in “cheat” that allows us to bypass the mundane requirements of physically moving from one place to another to progress.
Have you ever wondered what your character does during the fast travel time? I know this is a fairly abstract thought, but hear me out. While you check your phone for text messages or grab something to drink while waiting for the next screen to load, your character is doing the long, painful, virtual walk across the map that you chose to bypass. Did they run into any friends? Enemies? Battle a giant crab? Stop to smell the roses? Accidentally walk past a sweet chest to loot that they didn’t see containing the boots you have been waiting for? Who knows what you missed while they made like the Flash and zipped from one city to another? What you just walked past may be more important to your story than the side-mission that had you traveling in the first place… but you didn’t catch it because of the convenience of fast travel.
Many times in life I yearn for a fast travel button. I have a feeling I would use it way too often though. Long line at the grocery store? Fast travel. Traffic snarled up on the way home? Mash that button. Long angry conference call from the boss? See you on the other side of Winterfell. I have a feeling most of us would be all too happy to have this option in real life to speed through the painful times, the boring times, or the waiting periods we all endure. When you have a clear idea of where you want to go, and the only thing between you and the completion of your goal appears to be heartache, difficulty, or a bunch of wasted time it is easy to want to speed up the process and simply GET there.
If you open your Bible to the area that is typically in the back labeled “Maps” or something similar, you will typically find a map of Paul’s missionary journeys. This is assuming you still use a physical Bible… for those of you who have already bypassed the need for the physical medium of books, they were something the ancient races used to record events using an archaic form of communication know as writing. We physically held these items while perusing them, flipped through literal pages of words, and if you were lucky sometimes there were pictures. Maybe hunt one down someday as a fun little history lesson… but I digress. On these maps you will find the path the Apostle Paul took on his three missionary journeys:
Having these nice, neat colorful maps with all of the accompanying arrows helps us understand the path Paul as he took the mission of taking the gospel to the entire known world quite literally. But there is a funny thing about these maps that can be easy to forget… they weren’t in Paul’s copy of the Bible when he started out. Would have been nice, but no such luck. As a matter of fact, since he was responsible for physically writing much of the New Testament, his personal parchments that contained his version of the Word of God would have been limited to only the works of the Old Testament and perhaps an early version of a Gospel account. Suffice to say, he did not possess this road map when he started each of these journeys. To him… the fast travel option did not exist because he didn’t even know where he was going to end up much of the time. And he certainly did not plan for how he would be received during each of these visits.
Sometimes he would set a plan to travel to a certain place but was prevented by the Spirit of God from going there (Acts 16:6-7). Other times he would travel to a destination but was unable to start the ministry he had planned because of the hostility of the locals to the message (Acts 14:8-20). He did not have the benefit of large, bright, flashing arrows guiding him where to go to next. And his path was not a fun walk across the beach with footprints in the sand tenderly placed as he and His Savior enjoyed a leisurely stroll across the sands of Asia minor. No, this is how Paul described his path:
2 Cor. 11:23-27 “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones,three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
This was not a path of fast travel and comfortable amenities. Paul’s walk was not clearly scripted with continental breakfast int he morning and the light left on for him at night. It was a messy, painful, and challenging journey and at the time of the writing above he still had some of his largest challenges still remaining before him, including lengthy imprisonments, tragic betrayals, and eventually his reported death as a martyr. And this is a man who at the end was able to say that he had run his race and finished his course. And our path and our journey will be much the same… and bypassing it would mean that we missed out on the parts that were most important. Paul was not on a march to his end point simply to complete his race… his race WAS his purpose. Fast travel would have saved him from the pain and challenges he described, but he also would have never planted half of the churches that he setup or reached many of the lives that he bumped into along the way.
In our real world, the road less traveled by is the long one. The painful one. The one that seems to be nothing more than a waste of our time and our precious energy simply to survive it. But your path IS your missionary journey… you just can’t see it yet because it isn’t over yet. Like Paul, you are still making your “arrows” in your journey right now. Sometimes that arrow takes you somewhere you never planned (or wanted) to go. There will be times the arrow doesn’t even seem to be moving. But the process is too important to skip through, and that is why we don’t receive a fast travel option. The Lord sent Philip on a long walk simply to reach one man traveling to Ethiopia in Acts 8. Philip didn’t get to fast travel there… he had to WALK. But it placed him in a position to intersect with that man at the EXACT point and time that he was ready to receive the message Philip had for him. It may seem long and unnecessary from your perspective, but stay strong during this long, long, loooooooong walk and resist the urge to fast travel. It is the path, not the destination, that holds the story that will be your testimony. What’s that you say? There’s a public event incoming on Nessus? Hmmm… I think I will take the scenic route and just walk there this time…