It should be fairly simple to sew something from a pattern. And yet, no matter how many times I’ve tried, I muck it up. Either the directions have vocabulary I don’t understand or I can’t fit the pattern to my body. The other day I found one of these projects, pins and all, folded up in a storage box.
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
There’s a book I read some time ago called Becoming a Resonant Leader by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnston. In general, I enjoy books on leadership principles and this text is one of the better ones. However, I hated the very first exercise: “think about how you came to be the person you are today, and think about who helped you along the way. ‘Who Helped Me?'”
This exercise was intended to reveal to me the many people who helped me along my path. Instead, my mind drifted to all the people who didn’t help me. Instead of feeling better and stronger from these memories, I felt empty and alone. Who did I admire? Who mentored me? Who helped me get a job or learn a skill?
Of course, there were people along the way, but it was always in pieces and not the whole. My mother taught me to persevere, my brother taught me ambition, and there were friends who answered questions and held my heart while men and lovers betrayed it.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons I grabbed on so tightly to the cloak of Christ. Here was a flawless mentor.
But then, I ran afoul of the Christ interpreters who laid out Christ patterns before me to follow. Play nice in the sandbox. Be humble. Don’t confess fears or pain that show lack of faith. Don’t swear. Watch what you say. Love your neighbor. Stay married. Submit. Dress quietly. Sing loudly. Speak softly. Dance. Praise. Tithe money, tithe prayers. Let go of dreams. Serve the poor. Go to Africa. Live in the ghetto. Adopt the orphans. Sell everything. Give more. Be strong. Be weak. Be happy. Weep with those who weep.
Nothing really so wrong with any of it. But the patterns were too hard to follow. And so I folded them up and put them away.
The way may be narrow, yes, but the yoke is supposed to be light.
So, here’s what I think today: when I feel lost, I can look ahead and see others who have blazed a trail for such a difficult time as this. There’s a light ahead and I can follow it. But there are also times when I can make my own trail. And, if I look back, there may be people who need my way and my light.
When Jesus did miracles, they were all different. Sometimes he spoke a word, sometimes he laid a hand, and one time, he spat and created mud from the earth. He intentionally avoided a set pattern because life isn’t like that.
Christ patterns are made with dotted lines, not fat magic markers. God allowed each of us to be unique: eyes, nose, mouth, voice, skin color, abilities, etc. Doesn’t it make sense that the way would also be unique? My pattern is not your pattern. My pain is not your pain. My healing is not your healing.
Eyes on the prize from the inside out.