The Journey series
In last week's Mustard Seed I claimed anyone who says you can be whatever you want to be is lying. I laid out how what we are is largely determined by nature and nurture long before we are even aware we must choose. So what's with this week's topic?
There are limits on what we can be. There are no limits on what we can want. If we set our goals beyond the limits of what we can be, we will not succeed. We can only be what we want to be if we want to be what we can be.
I'm reminded of a time I ran the cabinet shop for a large construction company. The owner asked if I had enough leftover wood in the shop to make a boardroom table. I told him I did. a few days later he came with a plan for a nine-foot by four-foot boardroom table. It had a walnut parquet top framed in maple with maple legs and skirt. He told me to build it. I said I didn't have the materials. He became irate. "You told me there was enough wood to build a boardroom table!"
"A table – yes," I replied calmly. "That table – no."
He stormed off demanding the table he designed be built from the materials on hand by the time he returned from his trip.
I had seventeen days. I looked at his plan, I looked at the boardroom, and I took stock of my materials. I had nine-foot oak boards but no maple boards longer than six feet. Oak wouldn't match the maple cabinets in the board room. Joints in straight nine-foot lengths would be unacceptable. I changed the shape from rectangle to elongated hexagon so no side would exceed the length of the boards I had. The ends were slightly narrower than Hans' design and the middle was wider.
When Hans returned he reluctantly admitted the table I built was better than the one he designed. He particularly noted that the angled long edges afforded better site lines between the participants.
Adhering to Hans' original plan would have doomed the project to failure. It would either not have been built or it would have been built in a way Hans would reject. He would not have his table and I would be out the door. Instead, I assessed the projects needs and limits. I modified the design to suit its functional, structural, and aesthetic requirements while fitting within the limits of materials I had on hand. Adhering to the limits even incurred a providential benefit.
The same principles apply to what we want to be. If we stubbornly cling to our original inclinations even though they are beyond our limits, we will fail. If we separate our needs from our wants and develop a plan which lies within our limits, we can succeed. If our plan hits a new limit we need a new plan.
God created each of us according to His plan. Limits are not accidents, they are guideposts. We will be happiest when we want to be what we are created to be. What we should be is better discerned than decided.
Next week: Cost/Benefit Analysis
Peter T Elliott