When I was younger, I had the mindset that once I solved a problem, I solved it forever and for everyone. Basically, once I found a solution, I wanted to apply it to every similar situation and expect the same result.
For instance, one time when I was in kindergarten, I got myself out of time out by being truthful. Every day, when we would line up for recess, the teacher would tap our heads to direct us to different lines, indicating whether we got to play or had to sit in time out. I prided myself in being a good kid, so I was usually in the former line.
On this particular day, however, my teacher scolded me for talking too much in line (see, I even remember the reason and everything). Earlier in the day, she had sentenced me to recess time out for this crime. When it came time for recess, however, it appears that she had forgotten. When I stepped to the front of the sorting line, she tapped me to the “free to play” line and moved on to the kid behind me. I froze. It felt like my body was drawing me to the monkey bars, but something inside me kept my feet from moving. I turned around and addressed the teacher, reminding her that she had laid out my punishment earlier in the day.
She was surprised, to say the least. She was also impressed, however, and instantly forgave my debts in honor of my honesty.
For the rest of the year, whenever my friends would get in trouble, I would tell them, “just be honest!” to get them out of time out. So, whenever they faced the sorting line, they would blurt out “I have time out!” before the teacher could say it herself. It didn’t work.
I suppose it only worked out in my instance because the teacher had forgotten when it came to me. Nevertheless, I thought I had found a solution and I wanted to use it to fix everyone’s time-out-related problems. I saw that it doesn’t work like that.
I’ve found that my Christian walk is similar.
Lord knows there are times that I have struggled with persistent circumstances- some of which I created on my own. I have dealt with cyclical struggles and destructive thought patterns, in more ways than one. For some of them, God provided me solutions and freed me, and I’m trusting that He’ll do the same for the remaining ones.
When God revealed these answers to me, I wanted to share them with the whole world. I knew there were people in my life struggling with the same things, and I wanted to set them free as well. It was like God had given me the key to free me from my chains, and I saw it as a master key to do the same for others.
I would run out of my cell and race down the corridors, jamming the key into others’ locks and expect instant freedom. I quickly found that it doesn’t work that way.
Of course, when God does something in our lives (which is all the time), He wants us to testify about it. His word even says that we overcome circumstances by a combination of the sacrifice of Jesus AND the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). Talking about our struggles and sharing with people about how we, through God, got through them certainly is an indispensable part of our faith journeys.
Another important thing to remember, however, is that God doesn’t work the same way every time. Sure, He could, but it would not be beneficial for us to limit Him to a box like that.
Sometimes, God will say something or show me something that will instantly click with me, instantly and completely free me from patterns of destruction and downfall. Has that ever happened to you? You’ve been dealing with something difficult and then the words of a sermon, the lyrics of a song, or insight from God Himself makes your spirit leap? That’s what I’m talking about. When I find out that someone is dealing with the same thing, my inclination is to play that sermon or song, or recite that insight for the person and expect it to touch and free them the same way it did me. I’m often disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
I’ve learned that everyone’s relationship with God is unique. Just like we have different dynamics in our relationships with friends, family, and coworkers, God’s relationships with all of us differ. Yes, there are some blanketing characteristics of any relationship with God- most of which are things that His Word blatantly describes. But, there are nuances, too, based on each of our individual personalities. He’s consistent and faithful, but He’s not a robot.
He knows what makes me click (because He made me), and that’s why He decided to specifically give me that revelation. There’s nothing wrong with sharing a word of God with those similarly struggling, but I had to realize that my key is not necessarily theirs. God is good, so the word and testimony would never be useless, but it just may not serve the same purpose in others’ lives as it did mine.
God doesn’t give me the master key. He is the master key.
I’ve found this helpful to keep in mind, especially when giving faith-based advice. It’s important to sort out which words from God were just for me and which ones were meant for sharing, which ones are specific to circumstances, and which are more broadly applicable.
Because God knows all of us individually, He also knows our individual weaknesses. If God tells me to stay away from the cookie shop, I know it’s because He knows I struggle with self-control when it comes to cookies. This doesn’t mean that I need to start preaching to all Christians that cookie shops are evil and that we all need to stay away. No, that’s something specific to my walk. The more blanketing idea would be for us to remain wary of our temptations and to not put ourselves in positions to fall to them.
We don’t all struggle with the same stuff. We can’t judge people just because they sin differently, and we can’t project our own areas of concern onto others who do not share them. Neither of these is fruitful.
What we can do is walk our walks.
My “honesty method” for escaping kindergarten time out proved a solution only for me, because of my unique circumstances and history. It never worked out for others, I guess, because it was never meant to. Of course, telling them about it didn’t bring any harm (except maybe the introduction of false hope), but it didn’t free them.
God frees us, yes, but He doesn’t operate in a vacuum (although He could because He can do anything). He knows the circumstances surrounding us, our histories, our inner battles, our ways of thinking. And He cuts each of us unique keys based on those factors. Isn’t that awesome? He pays such attention to detail and cares so much about our individual idiosyncrasies that He individualizes our methods of rescue.
Share your breakthrough, but be encouraged that it’s not your job to set anyone free; it’s His.
God custom-made your path just for you. Walk your walk with Him.
Photo Credit: Suad Kamardeen
Anomaly Jaie (A.J.) manages and writes for StudiedandApproved.com, a blog at the intersection of the Christian and student lifestyles. She is currently working toward graduate degrees in Criminal Justice and Public Administration, specializing in juvenile justice. In her free time, she likes to work out, play her guitar, and eat Publix rainbow sprinkle cookies.