Thursday, September 11, 2014

Crooked Sticks and Straight Lines

Some tools are not perfect.  Anyone who works with computers knows this.  Experience has led me to this conclusion:  Technology is great, except for when it is not.  Printers mysteriously go offline; no one knows why.  Browsers and word processors flow like molasses and sometimes reach the solid state, freezing entirely.  One learns to restart the program, then restart the computer.  Our old wireless router became decrepit late in its life.  It had good days and bad days.  It might function perfectly for several consecutive days, then suddenly need rebooting every 10 minutes.  When I replaced it a few weeks ago, I immediately wondered why I waited so long.  Surfing the ’net is now a seamless journey through cyberspace, with no worries about video buffering or interrupted downloads.

Technology is a fickle servant.  I have often wondered how many hours I have spent waiting for my mouse pointer to stop spinning, or for programs to open, or for websites to display.  In those moments, I produce nothing, become frustrated, and further reduce my production capacity.  I could get so much more done if I were not working with such sluggish tools.  I bought a new computer in April, because my laptop became unbearably slow.  It was over four years old, well past middle age in the computer life-cycle.  Work is much more productive when my tools function efficiently.

This same lesson applies in woodworking.  Sharp saws actually cut through boards rather than burning through them.  Healthy batteries make cordless drilling effortless.  Conversely, breaking drill bits can mar the wood and slow the process.  I can work with imperfect tools when necessary—dull blades, weak batteries and breaking drill bits—but nothing beats breezing through a project with good tools.

I pity the person who shows up for work, wondering if the tools will cooperate that day.  When my daughter was ready to get her driver’s license last year, we drove 30 minutes to the DMV.  The clerk there informed us that her computers were down, and she could not help us; she had no idea when the system in Raleigh would be back on line.  All she could do was apologize to everyone who walked in.  We had to drive another hour to get to another DMV office.

Sometimes tools behave as if they have minds of their own.  Not only computers but cars, appliances and audio equipment may seem to choose if they will function.  We use those tools routinely, and work around whatever problems they cause.  We curse them, call them temperamental and may eventually replace them.

Consider that this is the kind of tool that God has to work with.  He chooses to use his people to bring his kingdom.  But we have good days and bad days.  We sometimes choose not to work.  We become dull and run down.  Unlike our tools, God’s tools actually choose whether or not to cooperate.  Amazingly, God uses us imperfect, temperamental, rebellious tools to share his good news through the ages.  Patiently, with us, he builds his kingdom, day by day, person by person.  Though we may be stubborn, hardheaded and defiant, he loves us and advances his kingdom in us and through us.  He accomplishes his purposes, and somehow uses our mistakes and sins in the process.

God can take a crooked stick and draw a straight line.  He knows that we are crooked sticks, and he loves us anyway.  In fact, he cares much more about us than our production.

So, however God is using you, he recognizes your imperfections.  He knows that sometimes you refuse to cooperate.  Sometimes you are more awake than others.  Some motives are more pure than others.  And he fashions the kingdom of God with all us imperfect, fickle tools.  Sometimes he needs to reboot us.  Sometimes he manages around our slowness.  And we are more than tools to him.  We are his dearly loved people, for whom he died.  We are his bride, being made holy, being perfected.  He loves you not for your work, but for who you are. 

If we can accomplish work with our frustrating tools, God can surely use us for his purposes, the work to which he has called us.  He is bringing his kingdom, using us in the process.  Only God could do that.  He doesn’t even get frustrated.