“Trust in the Lord with all your heartProverbs 3:5-6, NIV
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
“Lean not on your own understanding”—that’s a tough one. It’s easy to think we have it all together, that we know what we’re doing. But we don’t see the BIG picture that God sees, and that means we sometimes miss the target.
I thought I had it all together when I agreed to temporarily go back to my old job at our local middle school. They were short-staffed and I, believing the program was important, wanted to help. Before agreeing to do so, I had prayed about whether or not to return, and I’d asked others to pray with me. Then, still with no clear answer, I made a decision. But I came to realize that in returning to work, I had gotten myself off target. I fell behind—way behind—in writing these blog posts and in working on my book. And for that I apologize. I not only let God down; I let you down, and I’m sorry about that.
Remember that blog post I wrote last September? About Finding the Bullseye and staying on target? Well, apparently, I forgot it. I didn’t mean to. I guess I felt I could do it all: family and church responsibilities, the job, and my God-given target. But I was reminded by a friend (one familiar with good marksmanship), hitting the target requires concentration. It seems that I’m not good at concentrating on several things at once. I allowed myself to get distracted, and I found myself not just missing the target, but aiming at the wrong one. I was aiming at someone else’s target.
It’s not that that job, that target, isn’t an important one. I still believe it’s tremendously important. That’s what had made it so difficult for me to ignore. That’s what had led me to go back to it. But in doing so, I was, it seems, leaning on my own understanding.
As I thought through all this, I was reminded of a talk we were privileged to hear from Helen Roseveare, a missionary doctor. The fact that today, perhaps forty years afterwards, I still remember her message shows what a tremendous impact it had on me. What was so powerful about her talk?
It was the accompanying prop: a rose. A beautiful rose. With delicate pink petals and an awesome, pleasing scent. A rose—that was what she wanted to be for God.
But, of course, a rose has thorns. And those aren’t so beautiful and aren’t so pleasing. And Helen Roseavere acknowledged that she (as do we all) had thorny parts, parts that were best removed. God was working on her to remove all those thorny bits. And as she spoke, she carefully cut the thorns from the rose.
But she told us she found that God wanted to remove more from her life. Things that were okay, but just not needed now. And with that, she removed the leaves one by one.
Now all that was left was the stem and the flower. And that was fine because she could still offer him this most beautiful part of her. Surely God could now be happy with her. Surely he could now use her life for his glory.
She pulled the flower from the stem!
I was dumbfounded, but the flower was still there, and it was still just as beautiful. So, I guessed all was well, in spite of a slightly uneasy feeling I had about it all.
Then she astounded us again. She tossed aside, not the stem, but the rose! All that was left was that sad-looking, denuded stem.
You see, she told us, as beautiful as the rose was, God didn’t want her to be a rose. He wanted her to be an arrow. And he needed to remove all the things from her life that kept her from fulfilling that purpose—even what most of us would call the good stuff. Even the rose.
That’s what we’re called to do sometimes. Get rid of the good stuff. Not because it doesn’t have value. Not because it isn’t useful. But just because it’s not what God has in mind for us. He asks us to trust in him with all our hearts. He tells us not to rely on our own insight. And that seems wise because most of us would have a hard time seeing that we might be called on to toss out some of the roses in our own lives.
When we stop leaning on our own understanding, when we fully acknowledge him in all our ways, he’s going to show us the target he wants us to aim at. Then we must continually check to make sure we’re keeping our eyes on that target and that we’re doing all we can to ensure our aim is true.
As you can see, I’m still working on that. And I’m still working on letting God trim away the thorns. But, then, that’s what the Christian life is all about, isn’t it? Continuing to grow in our faith and knowledge of God. Continuing to let him make us more like Christ.
I had planned to add more about how to perfect one’s aim, but this is such an important point I think it should stand on its own. What do you think?
Soul Refreshers for your week:
- Reflect on Proverbs 3:5-6. You may even want to memorize it if you haven’t already.
- Pray asking God to reveal to you any places where you’ve been relying on your own understanding. Places where you may be missing the target God has laid out for you. Can you now turn those over to God and let him “make your paths straight”?
- Are there things God wants to trim from your life? Not just thorns, but maybe leaves and flowers as well?
- If Helen Roseavere’s message inspires you, you may want to read some of her books or a book about her life. Her story and her words are quite challenging.