Once upon a time, many years ago, I decided that it would be a great idea to do something daring.
I was on vacation with my parents in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We were sitting in a gazebo (either taking a rest or eating lunch, I can’t remember), which was surrounded by sea oats. If you aren’t familiar with sea oats, they are a grass-like plant that grows on top of/around sand dunes, and they help to hold the dunes together. In the Outer Banks, there are signs advising curious beachgoers to KEEP OFF THE DUNES and to leave the sea oats in peace.
Sea oats, to a young child, are quite mesmerizing. They are tall and graceful, with fluffy ends that wave in the breeze. They just beg to be touched.
So, I decided that’s what I would do. Reach out and touch them.
The problem was, the sea oats were a bit too far out of my reach. I needed something to stand on.
That’s when I considered the bushes.
In addition to being surrounded by sea oats, this particular gazebo was ensconced in thick, matted bushes that formed a circle around the wooden platform.
The bushes would provide the bridge that I needed to reach the sea oats. They looked sturdy enough.
You may be able to guess where this is going.
I took one step, two…
The only thing I accomplished was creating a me-sized hole in some bushes (and probably angering whoever maintained the gazebo and the surrounding shrubbery).
That day, I chose to lean on my own understanding…and I fell down (and could’ve been hurt).
Let the reader understand: if you lean on your own understanding, you are going to fall over.
In the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, King Solomon writes:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
-Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)
When King Solomon penned these words, he knew what he was talking about. He had experienced the heights of wealth, pleasure, and fame, and found them lacking. After many years, Solomon realized that God’s wisdom was the only kind that satisfied (for more of King Solomon’s reflections on this subject, see the book of Ecclesiastes).
Since graduating from college nine months ago, my “own understanding” has been tested. I have questioned my calling, my motives, my current jobs…and God’s plan. I have thought myself into a frenzy, trying to figure my life out.
I’m a planner. I’m a recovering perfectionist. I don’t do well with unknowns.
In his commentary on Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew Henry writes:
…we must believe that he [God] is able to do what he will, wise to do what is best, and good, according to his promise, to do what is best for us, if we love him, and serve him. We must, with an entire submission and satisfaction, depend upon him to perform all things for us, and not lean to our own understanding, as if we could, by any forecast of our own, without God, help ourselves, and bring our affairs to a good issue. Those who know themselves cannot but find their own understanding to be a broken reed, which, if they lean to, will certainly fail them.
Be it a broken reed or a broken bush, my understanding is finite and extremely fragile. It is neither solid nor dependable. It looks secure but proves otherwise.
In this season of my life, God is asking me (once again) to give everything over to him. To just take one day at a time. To be content where I am. And to realize that he is always working, even if I don’t “feel” him.
As I sit, trying to think of a way to conclude this post, a thought comes to mind:
God has not called me to write the story.
He just wants me to keep turning the pages.