Why Your Life Needs a Level
A lesson in levels
Long ago, in the dim mists of time (around about 1992), I was a poor college student who wanted to hang a shelf. I had a hammer and nails and a disreputable ruler I’d had since high school. With those tools and my roommate’s advice, I was confident that I could hang the shelf with no trouble. However, I was missing a vital tool—a level. Now I can’t plead ignorance. I knew what a level was. I’d seen my mother use one. But since I didn’t need a level on a regular basis, it seemed like a foolish and unnecessary expense. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out whether the shelf was straight. If you’ve ever tried to hang a shelf, you’re probably laughing under your breath right now.
…it’s impossible to know what straight looks like if you don’t have a standard to follow.
Hanging a shelf is not an easy process. First, I checked where the nails would need to go on the shelf and then tried to put the shelf up on the wall and mark the nail holes. Then I put the shelf down and stood back to try to figure out if my marks were level before I nailed in the nails and hung the shelf. I did all of those things but one side ended up slightly higher than the other. So I called in my roommate. One of us held the shelf in place on the wall and we both looked at it and asked each other, “How does it look to you?” But even though the marks look good to both of us from our own point of view, the shelf still got hung unevenly–again. To make a long story short, we ended up taking a trip to Walmart to get white toothpaste (which is what you patch small holes with when you’re a poor college student) and a level. We’d learned a very good lesson: it’s impossible to know what straight looks like if you don’t have a standard to follow.
Hanging a shelf if a lot like life. If I don’t have a reference point for right and wrong, I’ll get confused. If my reference point is my own opinion or the opinions of my friends or the media, my life will end up hanging crooked. Only God’s standards are the true measurement. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
When I decided to try to hang the shelf without a level, all I risked was putting so many holes in the walls that the landlord wouldn’t give me back my security deposit. If I live my life without knowing and following God’s standards, I risk an eternity of regret. So how can I know the right way? The Psalmist states it plainly, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” Psalm 119:9.
May the Lord be my level
Father, I have this tendency to try to trust my own judgment when I should be checking my judgment against what you have said is right. Don’t let me rely on opinions and guesses. Help me to live according to your word so that my life stays true to your standards. Amen.
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