God said to Noah: “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.” Genesis 6:14-16
Am I really being instructional or just being picky? This was the question that went through my mind as I hung the laundry on the clothesline, remembering times when I had told my kids to help me, then told them exactly how to hang each garment. The ways that they were hanging the clothes on the line would accomplish the task of drying the clothes (and wasn’t that the point?) but it was not being done according to my methods, which of course had been honed by years of perfectionistic precision.
These musings led me to reflect on how God instructs us. In Noah’s case, our records show that God told Noah to build an ark of specific proportions, and to fill it with his family and specific numbers of every animal on the earth. As far as we know, God didn’t add lots of specifications about how to build the ark, and God didn’t go on to remind Noah to pack all the other items that would have been necessary to equip the ark and its passengers for a long voyage. God laid out the big picture and left the details to the person chosen for the job.
I know that drying laundry doesn’t compare to building an ark, but my lesson for the day is that when I am asking someone to do something, I should choose a person who is capable of doing the job,focus on the bigger picture, and back away from the details. Yes, there is a time and a place for intervening with instructions if things are going awry, but I need to allow other people to do the job in ways that may be different than mine. Their ways may be better or they may not be, but it might not matter in the long run. Do I want dry clothes or do I want to be right about how I like to dry them? Do I want my kids to figure some things out for themselves and feel competent or do I want to do the job myself?
Lord, when I get too caught up in the details, help me to keep the bigger picture in mind. Amen.