For the past several months, this sign has been staring at me every time I exit the 10 freeway in Pomona on my way home. I’m not sure how long it took before it registered in my sleepy brain what the sign actually said. But once I realized it, it totally captured my nerdy sense of humor, so I kept trying to take a picture of it. I tried shooting it through the windshield while waiting at the red light. I tried having my daughter shoot it through the side window as we made the turn. I tried in the day. I tried at night. All to no avail–all I could capture was a fuzzy orange blob.
So one day I made a plan. I went the long way around and parked my car half a block away. I got out of my car, feeling a bit awkward, and tried to look nonchalant as I walked down the sidewalk toward the freeway onramp. What I didn’t factor in my plan, though, was that it was late afternoon traffic time, so there was a long string of cars waiting to turn right onto the freeway to go home. I thought I could just walk to the corner, snap a quick picture or two from my phone, then walk back to my car. What I discovered once I got to the corner, though, was that the angle of the road at that point made it impossible to even see the sign from the corner. Which of course meant that the only way to take a photo would be from the middle of the crosswalk.
I’d come this far, so I wasn’t going to back out now. Thankfully, there was a woman with a stroller waiting on the other side of the crosswalk, so I figured she could buy me a little time. I got my camera ready, then as soon as the light turned green, I walked to the middle of the crosswalk, stopped and took 2 photos of the sign, then turned around and followed the stroller back to the corner I had started from. All this while the long line of cars are impatiently waiting for the silly pedestrian to get out of the crosswalk so they can get on their way. As my teenagers would say: Awkward!!
When I showed the photo to my daughter, who shares my enjoyment of discovering funny typos or goofy word plays, she got a good laugh out of it. But when I told her what I had done to get the photo, she laughed even harder and told me that was funnier than the sign itself.
Most things that have the label of “custom” are not truly customized. It usually just means that you can pick from a variety of options the one that fits best with what you need. But something truly customized means it is designed from the ground up to fit a particular need; therefore there is nothing else like it, but rather it is uniquely crafted to fulfill a singular purpose.
Because I like woodworking, I also love custom-designing a project to fit a particular place or fulfill a certain function. I’m not opposed to buying furniture, if I can find something decently constructed that fits what I need, but when I can’t find anything for a particular purpose, I thoroughly enjoy creating a design and then building a piece of furniture to fit it.
When it comes to discipleship, to the process by which God forms our hearts more and more into His likeness, I believe God customizes that process for each one of us. God does not mass-produce identical disciples. Nor does He merely pick from a handful of tried-and-true methods and say “This one should be close enough for you.” Rather, He custom-designs a process that is perfectly suited for the specific needs and struggles and strengths of each of His children.
What does that mean in real life? It means that it is no accident that you are in the family where God has placed you. It means there is a purpose for the struggles you have faced growing up. It means that the person you find most annoying keeps showing up for a reason. It means the personality and gifts and experiences you’ve been given are not random or meaningless. It means that God is intentionally using all of those things to shape you further into the image of His Son.
He knows your deepest fears. He knows your greatest weaknesses. He knows you better than you know yourself. And because He knows you, He then designs circumstances and relationships and opportunities and struggles that reveal the sin in your heart and challenge your areas of weakness. He does that, not to punish you or shame you, but to grow you and prepare you for the particular mission and purpose that He has designed you for. That is discipleship…a discipleship that is customized perfectly to your individual needs and purpose. So rather than complaining about your family or your struggles or that annoying person in your life, receive it as the precious gift that it is: God’s careful, intentional, customized plan to form your heart to be more like His.
“In the beginning, God created…” and when I create, I feel His pleasure and reflect something of His image. God has created me to create: from the first little clubhouse that my mom helped me nail together with old splintery fence boards (which is still standing on my parent’s back patio!), to my personally-designed and painstakingly-built desk in high school woodshop class, to my custom corner office space in my home now, I find great joy in designing and creating projects that will meet a particular need. Each new season of life that I enter, I see more and more ways in which the resourcefulness and creativity and eye for customization that God has given me can be used not only to build projects out of wood, but to build His Kingdom and make His name famous.
Because far more important than creating me to custom-design woodworking projects, God has created me and called me to make disciples. And not just to make disciples, but to make disciple-makers. I am designed for discipleship…custom designed by the Creator of the universe to coach and consult and counsel others to grow deeper in their relationship with God, so that they in turn can disciple others to do the same. My prayer is that this blog could be a tool toward that end.