I am bemused by the types of shoelaces I’ve encountered lately. What’s this stretchy stuff that elongates a bit more each time I draw it up until its ends finally slap the floor as I walk? And this slick material that slithers undone no matter how tightly I pull the knot, threatening me with bruising falls in the stairwell? Whatever happened to plain serviceable cotton? Stretchy is for hairbands, not shoelaces; slick is for silk blouses.
How many times have others tried to force me into a mold I wasn’t designed for? I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to serve in various nurseries merely because I’m a mom. True, some women love to take care of children, any children, any number of children, any time, any place. I loved taking care of my own. That never meant, however, that I was eager to add others’ to their number. That’s stretching me way too thin.
Someone once told me that I should be writing about a certain political issue for our local papers. I asked why. “Well, you’re a writer, aren’t you?” Well, yes, I am. But it does not follow that I should write about every issue which happens to be of concern to anyone around me. My rhetorical knots will slither quickly loose in subjects not my strength.
We tend far too often to expect others to be of the same material we are – or perhaps of material that we are not and happen to need at the moment. I am always frustrated by demands for workers for various church programs: if not enough people desire to serve in a program, if not enough people have the gifts and the interest for it, would it not be better to drop the program than to guilt-trip people into squandering their energy in ministry they are not designed for?
Of course there are lazy people and people who lack confidence who need to be pushed or encouraged into using their gifts. But this is not, as a general rule, what I see. I do not see people trying to get to know others and their interests, their gifts, their abilities, and helping them find the right use for their particular cloth. Rather, they are told to do something, anything, and never mind if they become stretched too thin or fall apart in the process. Someone’s got to do it, so why not whoever hasn’t yet learned how to avoid spiritual manipulation?
This squandering of gifts and energies is shameful enough. But as others try to define me, force my cloth to fit their own desired needs, I resist. And if my focus becomes resistance, I may stop listening altogether. I may well miss the beauty of God’s design as, in my rebellion against man’s demands, I begin to claim the right to define myself in my own terms, to determine for myself what cut of cloth I am to be.
But just as others do not have the right to define us, we do not have the right to define ourselves. God defines us. He has done so from eternity past, and we must listen to Him. Sometimes, indeed, He will call us to do that which is uncomfortable and not to our liking; the called life is not always the pleasant life. But it is always satisfying, because He does not call us to that for which He has not designed us. He knows our cloth, and we must find our definition in His design.
And it would really help to get out of His way in the lives of others so they can hear Him. Those bruises from tripping in the stairwell cause an agonizing ache throughout the entire Body.