When I was in first grade, my art teacher gave us the awesomest project. She brought in lots of baby food bottles filled with different colors of paint. And she brought in a huge pile of strings. With a sparkle in her eye, she gave us all a piece of white paper, some string, and several bottles of different colored paints. And then told us to paint – with NO paintbrushes! We were supposed to dip the string in the colors, and then use them as paintbrushes on our paper. We should take a string, dip it in blue, and make a curly-cue on our paper. Once the string left its mark, we’d pick it up again, dip it in the blue and make another shape on the same paper. We eventually added other colors, and by the end our papers had become a glorious first-grade masterpiece of curly-cued lines. It was SO messy! But so much fun (I mean, seriously – lots of fun! After all, I remember it twenty-three years later!!).
Which is a little bit different than when I hit middle school and was handed an “assignment notebook” (a day planner). We were to write down every one of our assignments, and then, our reward when we completed that assignment was to check it off. So, I would draw little boxes beside the assignments and then, when I finished that assignment, I proudly put a check mark in the small box. I always would feel SO accomplished and productive and valuable when I checked off those boxes. Those little boxes motivated me like very little else (except maybe ice cream) could.
As an adult, I have to admit that learning how to use a day planner was very beneficial. I definitely use one, though now it’s a little more sophisticated.
The thing is, it’s SO easy to go about life with a “day planner” mentality – especially as Christians. We have to tithe (check). We have to be nice to people (maybe check?). We have to read the Bible (check last week). We have to give to the poor (check – my church does that with my tithe). And we have this crazy idea that if we check off all the boxes often enough, God will love us.
The thing is, HE LOVES US ALREADY.. It’s not about how many boxes you’ve checked off. Or how much you’ve done. You can’t earn God’s love. You can only accept it with the joyful abandon of a first grader making creative, messy string art.
I know, I know, you can’t really compare string art and day planners, right? They’re nothing like each other. They don’t have the same purpose, look nothing like the other, in no way are they the same. True statement.
But that’s kinda the point. Living the Christian life in the day planner style is NOTHING LIKE living the Christian life in the string art style. They don’t even have the same purpose. One is messy, joyful, and can be given away (what first grader doesn’t love giving their art to their teacher or parents?). The other is rigid, stressful, and all about YOU and what YOU’ve done. Not very much room there for others – let alone GOD.
SO, go live a joyful, messy, love-filled string-art sort of faith. And I know, telling you to go do that is a bit counter-productive because, really, you CAN’T do that without God. Which is, I’ll admit, the point. Ask Him to help you accept His love for you, embrace it, get messy with it, and then give it away.