The Fallacy of the “Straight Line”: How A to B really doesn’t work in real life

Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
     and do not rely on your own insight. 
In all your ways acknowledge him,
      and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV)


Real life is never lived in a straight line. In fact, it’s the turns and bends that teach us about who we really are and reveal the Creator’s intervention. I confess that often I forge out straight into the gauntlet, hoping the speed of a dash in the right direction will get to the destination. I might fail as badly as Halo’s Master Chief would if he were to run–outnumbered and out gunned– directly into the “zombie-fied” flood. Unlike in a video game, there is no replay in life. Or, the replays are very limited. That straight line tactic simply does not work.

Ever use the Waze app on your smartphone? Often, when traffic is bad—which is routine here in Southern California—an alternate route will add miles to save time. The most “straight” path in that case is the one that bends around a traffic jam rather than foolishly attempt to run right through it. My own efforts to make my path straight mean I likely will choose the shortest line at the grocery store to my peril. 

I have always loved Proverbs 3:5-6, but I think the idea has been muddled as taught by many. The goal of trusting in God is not for that shorter path. It’s the “right” path. In this case, a straight line does not mean a straight path. And, my aspiration is for the journey that sees God in the bends rather than honk at the frustrating traffic jam in front of me. Yes, the bends in my life are truly a pain. I am taken around and about to places and experiences that I have not planned on. I might miss real life if I am only seeing God as an app that simply makes things work for me.

If I trust God—even when things seem bleak—I am then able to see him. Seeing him means my paths take me to where I need to be. When focused only on a straight line, I lose seeing God anywhere other than what I conceive as from “A’ to “B.” My lack of trust creates a reliance on flawed data. I am not in a position to know when that bend truly will benefit me—maybe not until after I have breathed my last breath. Do I trust God enough? Do I see God enough?

Circumstances are not obstacles to God’s navigation app. We can trust that he is here and we have the hope that in the end we will arrive. The journey then becomes an opportunity rather than an encumbrance. Straight lines then are not our friend nor a wise goal. The quick and easy way is not exactly what this proverb teaches us. The principle mined here is that our spiritually-formed heart and mind will see God in the turns. The promise is that God is with you in the bends. And, you will arrive—just not in a straight line.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. –Albert Einstein

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

1 comment

  1. Great reminder, Rich. Thank you for a fresh interpretation on that Proverb. Needed to hear this today.

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