It just seems so cruel.

I’m playing the board game Sorry! with my kids, not grown ups, not enemies, not rivals.  sorry!These are little tiny people with big sensitive feelings.  But when I draw that one magic card from the stack, I have to stomp all over their progress and send their man back to the start zone.

Don’t pass Go.  Don’t collect $200.

Or something like that.

And while I might be able to rig Candy Land, there’s not really much I can do about the game Sorry!, not without destroying the essence of the game by hiding all the Sorry! cards themselves.

Over time, my kids have grown a little hardier, but when we first started playing I had to apologize profusely for sending them back to “Start” just as they thought they were winning.  There was crying and there were hurt feelings.

Now at least they understand it’s all part of the game.

While all of us want to race straight from “Start” to “Home,” the truth is Sorry! is all about patiently waiting for the right card before you can step out onto the game board.  It’s about being sent back a few times and jumping ahead at opportune moments, sliding a little forward when things go your way and taking four steps back every once in a while.

It’s a little bit, or maybe a lot, like life.  It certainly reminds me of Abraham’s life.

When God called Abram (later Abraham) to leave his home and head out to an unknown land of promise, Abram packed his bags in faith, bid a fond farewell to family and friends and set out on his journey.

I guess I’ve always imagined him rushing through the wilderness, riding as fast as his camels could carry him in the desert heat, stopping only for sleep and meals only when fruit snacks and peanut butter crackers no longer sufficed.

I could see his wife, Sarai, pulling her camel alongside his and assuring him softly that, “It’s all right to stop for a bathroom break.  We don’t have to make it to the Promised Land in one day.”

I know I would be in a hurry to reach my destination!  Given a promise or a hope, I’m eager to leave and rush breathlessly down the road.

I’d be pressing into God every day:  Is this the land, God?  Is this your promise?  Or is it beyond this and, if so, what are you waiting for?  Let’s get moving!

Yet, Genesis 12:9 says, “Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev” (NLT).

He took the journey in stages.  Travel a bit and then rest for a while in one place.  Get to know the people.  Linger along the desert road.  Tend to the sheep.  Wait on God to direct His next step.

Yes, Abram enjoyed the journey.

Even when he arrived at the land of promise, it must have been such a disappointment.  Scripture says, “At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner” (Genesis 12:10 NLT).

The Promised Land wasn’t flowing with milk and honey at the time.  It was dried up and destitute.  He had to retreat to Egypt, taking a long detour where he lived as a foreigner, an outsider, one man worshiping One God among a nation of many gods.

Then he trekked back over land he’d already covered, but even then he didn’t hurry.  He knew the way.  He’d been there before.  And yet still he traveled slow:

“From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel, and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had camped before.  This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the Lord again” (Gen. 13:3-4).

Maybe that’s what kept him going all along, knowing he would see Bethel again, where he had worshiped the Lord before and where he hoped to meet God anew.  Perhaps by then, Abram needed that reassurance that God was still with him and that though the journey was long and complicated, confusing even, there was a plan and a purpose, a hope and a future.

Surely we all need that reassurance at times, because our traveling isn’t much more straightforward than Abram’s was.

Sometimes we have to go back and sometimes we have to take the long way round.  Sometimes we get knocked aside by others.  Sometimes it seems like we’re absolutely standing still, just turning over card after card waiting for our chance to move.

But we remember to take it in stages, knowing that, unlike arbitrary cards on a board game, God has a plan.  We can trust that “the Lord will continually guide you” (Isaiah 58:11 NASB), even when we’re not moving forward, we are always moving on with Him.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King