“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (Gal 6:4-5, The Message)
Really? This isn’t a paint-by-number project?
Remember paint-by-number? You got the little canvas, and the tiny palette of paints and a brush, and if you followed ALL the directions correctly, you were supposed to end up with a wee copy of some loving artistic piece.
IF you followed all the directions.
IF you didn’t misread the tiny numbers printed on the canvas and the paint cups.
IF you didn’t get carried away with that one particular color….
Yeah. My experience with paint-by-number wasn’t very gratifying.
And yet, over the years I’ve approached multiple aspects of life with that same “paint-by-number” approach of “do it THIS way.”
If you’re going to be a wife, be the June Cleaver model. (Ha ha. That didn’t last long.)
To be a mother, follow THIS method… (It may have worked for that mom and HER kid, but my kids aren’t her kids, and I’m not her, and … well, we ended up following the “seat of our pants, skin of our teeth” method instead.)
To be a writer, one must pursue writing and publishing a certain way. Years ago it was “no vanity presses,” then “no self-publishing,” and now “no self-published e-books.” Meanwhile, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have written and published their stories without anyone’s permission. But for those of us devoted to doing things the “right” way, deviating from the prescribed path is, well, DEVIANT!
And a Christian? The lists and formulas and methods and outlines are endless. Fill in the blanks to get your prayers answered, apply the formula to have a greater connection to and relationship with God, satisfy the requirements and be a better minister.
Don’t get me wrong, I turned to Christianity AFTER I failed at all the requirements I ran up against in trying to be a good little New Ager. Wherever you find religion, you find rules and restrictions and requirements. It doesn’t make any difference what you call it.
When I found a living, one-on-one, first-name basis kind of relationship with my Creator and Savior, I found the only way OUT of all those requirements and formulas and methods and rituals and performance-based faith. STAYING out of paint-by-number spirituality and IN intimacy with God has been nine-tenths of the battle!
Anyway, back to those verses in Galatians… when I read them, I feel like I’ve been double-dog dared to “find myself” and then to be the very best I can be as a unique, handmade, God-designed individual. There’s only one of me, after all. I am one-of-a-kind, and so are you. Why do we waste our time and energy trying to follow someone else’s path or comparing our progress to another’s?
Being an individual, a genuinely unique human being, takes guts and courage and bravery and a willingness to step out of the status quo and follow the Holy Spirit wherever He may lead. And if He’s leading, you can guarantee you’re going on an adventure!