I have not liked that little quip since a memorable summer day when I was 8 years old. That was the day I learned just how far and physically taxing “a hop, skip, and a jump” could be!
We (Mom and all four of us kids) had gone to visit one of Mom’s sisters (and, by extension, our cousins). We were so excited — especially since Mom had promised we would also later be going on down the road to her other sister’s house, complete with — you guessed it — more cousins!
As time slowly ticked away, we became more and more anxious to move on. But Mom and her sister seemed to be finding an endless array of things to talk about. Time was wasting! We had places to go, cousins to see, games to play!!!
After what I’m sure was no small amount of begging, Mom suggested that if we wanted to go so badly, we could walk there. We were stunned! Seriously???!!! We had never done that before and weren’t too sure we wanted to do it now. But the desire to play with our older cousins won out over our fear of traveling that stretch of road by ourselves.
So, with a bit of fear and trepidation, yet armed with encouragement from our mothers that it was “just” a hop, skip, and a jump, six of us ranging in age from 8 to 4 began our adventure on foot down a country road, complete with gravel, lots of dust and a dense wooded area on our left that was more than a little unnerving.
After walking a few minutes, we began to question if our mothers had ever walked this stretch of road before. It was certainly a lot farther than “a hop, skip, and a jump.” We proved it. I can’t tell you the number of times we literally did a hop, a skip, and a jump. Never did that sequence land us at our desired destination.
Several minutes later, as we were growing tired of walking, we realized we could now see the end of the wooded area up ahead. We knew we were getting close! Just the excitement of that thought alone gave us the incentive to speed up and start running. But, when we got to the end of the woods, we were faced with a fence row that appeared to be a mile long! How had we not noticed the fence row before? Discouraged, our run slowed down to our former pace while more questions began to fly around at record speed. What had we gotten ourselves into? What should we do? Should we turn around? Should we keep going? Should we just sit down at the side of the road and wait for our mothers to come along in the car?
One quick glance back and we knew turning around was not an option. We had come too far to turn back now. Besides, it had been scary enough walking past the woods once; not one of us wanted to do that again! Waiting was not an option either because by now two out of the six of us needed to go to the bathroom. So we continued trudging on, the only thing keeping us going being the vision of fun and games dancing in our heads.
Eventually we got to the end of the fence row and to the corner of our cousins’ front yard, at which point we all took off running! We were never so happy to see their house as we were that day. As we were running diagonally across their yard, guess what we saw off to our right? Yep! It was our mothers pulling into the driveway in the car. Their trip? All of a couple of minutes. Ours? More like 30 or 40! Only to arrive at the same destination at the same time.
A couple of practical lessons come to mind as I reflect back on that summer adventure. First of all, never seriously believe someone if they say it’s just “a hop, skip, and a jump.” It’s a matter of perspective. And your perspectives may be miles apart — literally!
Another lesson to be learned: practicing a bit of patience could save a lot of wear and tear on a body! I suspect our games of “Red Rover” or “Red Light, Green Light” or “Freeze Tag” would have lasted a lot longer that summer evening had we been patient enough to ride with our mothers instead of taking off on foot.
Which makes me think about God’s desire for me to be more patient in most areas of my life. I am slowly, but surely, learning to resist the urge to take off on foot every time I’m tempted. Sad as it is to admit, I’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s better to wait patiently for God. It’s just that it’s so much easier said than done. After all, I have places to go, people to see, and things I want to do!