I love to create. Singing long and loud feeds my soul. Putting paint on canvas helps me breathe. I’m not really that great at it, but that’s not the point. I have been writing for years because it helps me process. However, the one thing I go to in times of stress is making things with wood. I want to share how my last project helped me understand the truth about curvy lines and control.
My grandfather, Robert Barlow, was one of the most amazing men I have ever known. He was a man of great integrity and raised a family who all love Jesus. I could write a whole other post devoted to the things he taught me, but I won’t do that today. What I will talk about is how much he loved to work with wood. It’s a love that I know I inherited from him. There’s something about drawing up a plan for something and seeing it come to life. This summer, my son asked for a bookshelf in his room. Instead of going and buying a new bookshelf, I decided I would make one for him using some wood I had gotten from my grandfather’s house. This would be an amazing way to remember my grandfather and release some of the tension and angst in my heart.
So I sketch the project out and gather all of my materials together. I have to plan it out and do a good bit of measuring and remeasuring before I start putting anything together. For those of you who care, I am an Enneagram 5 so I have to be completely ready before I cut a piece of wood. I have done research on the best wood to use. I know the average size of bookshelves sold in stores. I’m a huge nerd, I know. No matter how long I research, I eventually reach the step where I cut the wood. The thing is, I want to look like I know what I am doing. I hate making mistakes, and my lines have to be completely straight. I draw straight lines to follow but rarely ever cut a completely straight line. The curvy lines I cut on this project made me think.
I had curvy lines where I thought there should be straight ones. Here’s the thing, I like predictable straight lines in life. It is comforting when I see the road ahead and know what’s coming next. Straight lines make me feel like I am in control. Some people might think it is boring, but I would argue that people love the idea of boundaries and predictability in life. I see it in the eyes of the children I teach each week. Then it occurred to me that life is very often one curvy line after another. I make a plan that I think will be fun for family time and the kids start to argue, curvy line. I share my heart with a friend and they don’t acknowledge my feelings, curvy line. Things at work are going great and I get called to my bosses office, curvy line. When everything piles together I start to feel out of control. I want things to follow the plan in my head, and when it doesn’t I get mad at God. My faith starts to get shaky because it feels like God isn’t in my plan.
Who’s Really in Control Here?
The fact is if I serve a god I can manipulate that easily, he’s not big enough to take care of me. Control is an illusion. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” In this simple verse, we see the true nature of our hearts. We spend too much of our time trying to make our curvy lines straight, and not enough of our time looking at where God is leading us. God establishes our steps. What feels like a curvy line to us may be the opportunity we have been praying for. We have to learn that it’s better that we are not the ones in control.
Our walks with Christ aren’t supposed to be straight lines full of all the blessings this world offers. If that is the brand of Christianity you signed up for friend, I’m afraid someone lied to you. Look at the life of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 he said, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Do you think that Paul would have planned a life of persecution for himself? No, this man was not in control, but I think he was better because of that fact.
I could be completely wrong. I could be the only one who struggles with wanting to be in control and manage my own life. However, I think there are people like me who have to let go of the illusion of control. Instead of making a plan and inviting God into it, we have to pray about what His plan is for us. Just think of the freedom we will find if we could just surrender to His will. When things don’t work out like we think they should, it wasn’t our plan anyway. What if all the things we are experiencing aren’t for our benefit, but are to glorify God instead? How would you feel if you could share your suffering with someone else and they could walk closer to Christ because of it? What if it led to their salvation? Wouldn’t such a life of freedom be so much more attractive to the lost people around us?