Life is full of substitutions. Often that connotes making do with something less than the ideal—like subbing fennel seeds for anise or subbing a second-string pitcher for an injured closer. Hopefully a good swap works nearly as well as the real deal.
I’m a Christian and an author, in that order. Although there’s no substitute for a good storyline, writing—like sports and life in general—comes with risks of poor substitutions cloaked as good intentions.
I spend a great deal of time honing my craft and praying it will please God. But if that activity, or the cares that come with it, supersede becoming closer to Him, then my priorities have ridden off the rails.
For the past week, God has been nudging me about what I tend to substitute for Him.
Today authors are under incredible pressure to have a platform. An ever-growing presence on social media is crucial. But if I get my affirmation from numbers-building and positive blog comments, I need to have a heart-to-heart with myself about where my true identity lies.
Bigger picture: if I spend time with God only when it’s convenient for me, how can I justify such behavior?
But I (may I say “we”?) do that in one way or another.
God says He’s a jealous God. In other words, He’s serious about us not substituting anything for Him.
A good example is in Exodus.
Between Egypt and the Red Sea, God purposely rerouted the Israelites twice: first, to avoid experienced warriors [Philistines] who would have quickly overwhelmed and captured them (Exodus 13:17); and second, to outwit Pharaoh. God made the Israelites backtrack so Pharaoh’s scouts would spot them and think the fledgling nation was wandering, lost, in the wilderness. God let the Israelites in on His plan, but they didn’t listen very well (Exodus 14:3-4). When they were sure God was leading them to their deaths, He was actually leading them to their ultimate deliverance.
There’s the rub. The Israelites substituted their idea of safety for God’s sovereignty.
We’re no different.
Why? Because subbing is comfortable.
When God pulls us out of our comfort zone, we tend to “do” first and “be” second. We get busy thinking and doing what we deem is best more than we listen to His still, small voice speaking His vision for us. He needs us to “be” before He lays out what we should do. But if we get caught up in “doing” more than “being,” we all-too-easily substitute our activity for His purpose. Our advancement for God’s timing. Our reasoning for God’s Word. Our finite resources for God’s infinite creativity.
God had far-reaching plans for the Israelites. Similarly, God has plans for our growth and His greater glory. Plans that will blow our minds and reach into eternity—if we stop subbing lesser things for God Himself.
Substitutions are synonymous with compromise. “Plan B” may seem to work as well as “Plan A,” but it’s still not the same. Why settle for less than the best?