The three most common words in our household are currently, “I do it!” This phrase is often spoken in an urgent, indignant tone by my two-year-old, who thinks he can do everything. From strapping himself into his car seat to feeding the dogs to pouring milk into his cup, my toddler erroneously assumes he is competent enough to handle every task that comes his way. He gets mad at me if I do something he thinks he can do. He will shut the door to the dryer in protest just so he can be the one to open it again. It’s cute and irritating all at the same time, because clearly there are things he has no business trying to do. Kim John Payne summed up the two-year-old mentality best in his book The Soul of Discipline. He coins two-year-olds “little emperors” and says the following about them: “They are waking up to the world around them, discovering their own willpower and feeling a sense of omnipotence not matched by ability.” So very true. And yet, that’s an uncomfortably accurate description of the attitude of many adults as well, myself included.
Frank Sinatra may have popularized the song “My Way,” but the sentiment is far from unique. The thought of doing things one’s own way appeals to something deep in the core of a human being. I am capable! I am strong! Look what I have done! one thinks with pride. Toddlers and adults alike hate to be told what to do. We’d much rather do things our own way, thank you very much. It’s especially abrasive to think there’s a higher power out there, setting rules and boundaries for us. Through the ages, people have rebelled against this notion, and the Bible is proof of that. There are numerous biblical examples of people taking matters into their own hands, thinking they could solve their own problems or make decisions apart from God. Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God when they decided to take a bite of that fruit. Cain thought he would get rid of his guilt by getting rid of his brother. Sarah thought she’d help God by asking Abraham to bear a child with Hagar. Joseph’s brothers devised their own plan to deal with the sibling rivalry and parental favoritism in their family. David thought he could fix his dilemma with Bathsheba by his own cunning. Each of these people were “feeling a sense of omnipotence not matched by ability.” And the results were disastrous. By doing things “my way,” these people royally messed up their lives.
What are you struggling with in your life? What problem are you trying to fix on your own? Where are you desperately trying to do things your own way, rather than God’s way? Are there commandments you think you can redefine to accommodate a pet sin or cover up another sin, as did David? Are you impatient for God to act and looking to “help” Him out, as Sarah did? Be very careful, for Proverbs 14:12 warns us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Yikes. That certainly doesn’t mince words. Rather than taking matters into our own hands, Deuteronomy 8:6 advises us, “You shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and by fearing Him” (emphasis added). “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth,” Psalm 86:11 pleads. These verses acknowledge that God’s way is the best and only way. Just as my two-year-old cannot understand why I won’t let him cross the road without holding my hand, so we may not understand our omnipotent God’s rules sometimes. We may think He’s trying to unfairly restrict us, when in actuality, He’s trying to keep us safe.
Recall with me the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways are so, so much better, and Jesus is proof of that. On our own, we never could have come up with God’s way of salvation. While we were sewing together fig leaves, God was already setting in motion His plan to send His Son to die for our sins. He was already promising Jesus, the Way. Years later, Jesus declares in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He doesn’t say, “I am a way,” but “the way,” for “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” as Acts 4:12 reminds us. The meaning is clear. There is no room for “my way” in this. We may feebly protest, “I do it!” But God gently answers, “No, My child, I already did it. And I did it My way.”
Photo is Frank Sinatra by Kate Gabrielle