Mr. Carson’s tenth graders were ready for a relay race. Two groups of eager contestants, each holding a brightly colored sheet of paper, lined up on opposite sides of the room. The students at the head of each line held scissors as well. Before long, their teacher called them to attention and gave them these instructions: “When the race begins, cut your paper in half down the middle. Then pass the scissors to the next in line. Keep on cutting and passing until everyone on your team is done. When the last person on your team has finished cutting, yell, ‘We won!’ Are you ready? Then, on your mark. Get set. Go!”
Determined to win, each student wanted to be the fastest paper slasher in the room. With jaws set and eyes focused on the job at hand, none noticed the progress of their competitors. One team completed the task with ease, while the other slogged through with great frustration. Only half their papers had been sliced by the time the faster team had finished.
Before anyone could protest, the wise teacher retrieved the scissors and sent the baffled students to their seats. Superior smirks on the winners’ faces quickly faded as he held up the scissors, side by side, for inspection. One pair obviously belonged in a kindergartener’s cubby. Short and blunt, they were ineffective. The other pair, long and sharp, would have been welcomed by a seamstress or a surgeon.
“Unfair!” cried the losing team. Amid their complaints, the teacher asked for silence and began to speak.
“Today you were all given the same assignment. Those who used the sharp scissors found slicing through construction paper to be an easy chore. Even if I’d given you plastic sheeting or leather to cut, you would have been able to complete your task. The dull scissors were frustrating though, and you were only cutting thin sheets of paper. Imagine what would have happened if I’d given you cardboard to cut!”
“Was this relay fair? Of course not. I never intended it to be fair. I set up this race to teach you a lesson you should never forget. Life will hand you all sorts of tasks, some easy, some holding great challenge. Your job is to get ready, to take care of yourself, to learn and to develop your talents. Choose to become sharp scissors.”
In January a lot of us hit the “restart” button, determined once again to get ourselves in shape. Why? Often the “why” we’ve chosen isn’t strong enough to keep us disciplined throughout the year. Here, though, are a couple of really good reasons to stay the course:
“You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
You are his. He has work for you to do. Stay sharp.
(My apologies to those of you reading this for the second time, as I inadvertently posted a draft in early December!)