Don't Force It

As a teenager, I loved assembling model airplanes and cars and ships, and the kitchen table was always my favorite place to do my work.  Actually, even though I had my own bedroom and desk, the kitchen table was always my favorite place for everything.  I can still see day-old copies of the Chicago Tribune spread out.  And I can vividly smell the TestorsTM—please use in a well-ventilated area—glue.  I remember using flat toothpicks to carefully apply the glue to the exact point of contact.

I remember a day in particular that I was doing just that. All the pieces to my P-58 Spitfire were spread out on the newspaper.  I had the directions right in front of me, and I was meticulously putting each piece together in the proper order.  But for some reason, there were two pieces that weren’t fitting together as they were supposed to.  I double-checked the instructions, then looked at the little numbers stamped on the back side of the pieces.  I was sure they were correct, but they still didn’t snap together.

At that moment, my dad walked through the kitchen.  He saw me straining to get these two plastic pieces to fit.  He stopped to watch me, the veins in my neck bulging and my tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth. 

And then my dad said something I have never forgotten.  What he told me that day has had a profound influence on nearly every dimension of my life since.  “Hey, Son,” my dad said calmly. “Don’t force it. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it,” he repeated.  Then this wise man turned and walked away.

I am a hard-driving, entrepreneurial, task-oriented, and focused man.  I have made a life of taking on more responsibility than I’ve had time to fulfill, saying “yes” when I should have said “no,” and feeling guilty because I didn’t sign up for everything.  I have lived on the fast-track, hustling where I lacked skill and talking when I had nothing to say.  I have prided myself on being a perfectionist, and I wake up every morning on time without an alarm clock.

My dad had no idea how important his words that day were.  He couldn’t have known that his son would have grown up to a habit of pushing and clawing and scratching, night and day.  Unless these were prophetic words—and maybe they were—I needed to hear this when I was building a plastic RevellTM model on the kitchen table, and I need to hear it now.  “Hey, Son, don’t force it.  If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.”

Do you know that God is not in a hurry?  He knows exactly who He is and what He’s doing.  He has not over-committed His time.  He has not written checks for insufficient funds.  Frenzy and chaos are not His companions.  “God keeps His promises . . . and He is patient with you,” the Apostle Peter tells us (2 Peter 3:9).

This concept runs counter to my chemistry.  “But think of all the good I can do if I sign up for everything,” I rationalize. “Think of all the help I can be to God if I’m living at high speed. After all, isn’t God better served by industrious men—husbands and dads who want nothing less than an Academy Award for their tireless efforts?”

No, actually, he isn’t.  God isn’t frantically looking for volunteers to do His work.  He’s not wringing his hands, hoping I do what He cannot do without me.  My task as His disciple is a fairly simple one: “Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him” (3:14).  So I need to stop racing and rest in Jesus.

“But what if something falls through the cracks, God?” I pine.  “Don’t You need me to crank it up one more notch for You?”

He answers: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened (and frazzled and driven and hassled and overworked) and I will give you rest . . . for My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Slow down. God is better served by a man who isn’t moving so fast that he can’t afford the time to rest . . . and listen.  I know you’ve got lots to do.  So do I.  But look at us. The veins in our necks are bulging.  Our tongues are sticking out with the strain.

“Hey, Son,” our precious and patient Heavenly Father is saying to us. “Don’t force it.”