To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps. – 1 Peter 2:21
For several years, I worked as the athletic director of a K-8 school. The job brought with it many of exciting responsibilities and many, many mundane ones. One of the more important and least impressive jobs that I had every year was the task of distributing combination locks to the students for use in the locker rooms. We provided the locks so that we’d have easy access to open them if needed. But because the students bought the locks from the school, I was also tasked with the “important” job of teaching the students how to open the lock.
If you know how to open a combination lock, it’s easy. First, you must spin the combination dial a minimum of two full revolutions in a clockwise direction, finally stopping on the first number of the combination. From there, you make a full revolution counter-clockwise before stopping on the second number. Finally, you turn the dial clockwise again until you get to the third number of the combination then pull. Simple right?
Not really. Every year when I passed out the locks to our new fifth grade class, I always banked a few extra minutes into the schedule to teach the kids how to open their locks, and even then I would still have a few who needed extra help and practice to get the lock to open. This wasn’t designed to embarrass anyone. The bottom line was for many of these kids this was the first time they’d ever been asked to open a combination lock. Opening these types of locks for years has a way of making me forget how tricky it was the first time I had to try when I was a fifth grader. We forget that most anything is easy if you know what you’re doing.
So once again, I’ve shared with you information that you read and think to yourself, “Duh! Thanks Captain Obvious.” Identifying letters and colors became easy once we learned them. So did reading, blowing a bubble, and tying your shoes. So why of all of these things in life did I choose opening a lock for my analogy? It’s because unlike all of these other things which can be learned and perfected in many different ways, there is only one way to successfully open a combination lock and that is to follow the procedure correctly. In many ways, the choices that the world gives us are like those many other tasks I’d had listed above. When it comes to learning how to excel at those things, there are lots of different options and methods from which to choose. But because the lock only opens one way it is essential to know the specific steps and follow them perfectly.
Of course, there is another way that you can get around the procedures and open the lock – get a pair of bolt cutters and cut it open. This is an effective method but it is also one that can create a lot of unwanted consequences. Say you decide to use the cutters on someone else’s lock. Now you’ve opened it, you can have access to anything you want, but what you find is not for you, could be harmful to you, and might get you into an awful lot of trouble. And if you use the cutters to break open your own lock you can take pride in knowing that you’ve opened the lock with more speed and ease, but by ignoring the process you’ve caused irreparable damage and left yourself open to dangers and hazards with no chance to correct it.
We must remember that locks are designed by God to protect and prevent us from being harmed. Some locks are permanent – keeping us away from the things toward which we should never venture. Other locks are temporary, prohibiting us from getting into things we are not yet ready to take. It is God who knows what we should and shouldn’t have, when we should have it, and how it will benefit us at the proper time. And when that time comes, the Holy Spirit will give us the correct combination and teach us the proper procedure for opening the lock safely, securely and in a way that maximizes the blessing of whatever He has chosen to give us. Peter’s words serve as a powerful reminder that we must humble ourselves to follow in the footsteps of Christ – the One whose perfect model freed us to receive the greatest gifts that God has to offer.
It can be hard to follow the steps and not do it our own way. It can be harder when you know what to do but are being instructed to wait patiently for the right time. But thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives we have the ability to put our trust in Him so that we can lock up the joy found only in the loving arms of God.