My maternal grandfather was a carpenter by trade. One of the lessons that have been passed down in our family is important in carpentry, but for me, it represents a spiritual truth as well.

When you are cutting multiple boards of the same length, you should always mark your cut by the first board you measured. Why is that important?

Let’s say the first board measures three feet long. Then the next board you cut is just about 1/16 of an inch shorter than the first. No big deal, right? Then you use the second board to measure the third board. Again, the third board is about 1/16 of an inch shorter than the second. But now the third board is 1/8 of an inch shorter than the original. If this process continues for twenty boards, the last board is significantly shorter than you need it to be. The boards got smaller and smaller, just a few fractions of an inch at a time.

What does this have to do with being a Jesus follower? The first perfectly cut board represents God’s instructions for our life. The cutting of the boards represents the daily decisions we make. Cutting them to the appropriate length is a representation of our obedience.

Measuring our decisions to the last board we cut rather than to the original board of God’s instruction is risky. It leaves us open to the idea that we could shave just a little bit off in order to satisfy ourselves instead of surrendering to God. When we do this once or twice, our decisions still match God’s will for us pretty closely. But over time, those decisions get further and further away from how God wants us to live.

I have wasted so much time trying to make things go the way I wanted them to go. Or wondering too much about whether or not people were going to recognize my contributions. I am tempted to make myself known, force my way on others, and toot my own horn. Worst of all, I am tempted to be angry at and cast blame on others for my feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.

But I am learning. And I am recognizing how making decisions from selfish ambition and pride limit the evidence of the Holy Spirit that lives in me. The act of self-sacrifice is essential in order to fully follow Jesus and be obedient to Him.

When I “shorten my board” a little bit as I make daily decisions, it is because I am putting perceived selfish gain over obedience. It is my frequent prayer that God reveals to me where I do this and that I quickly receive His correction. It is my desire to “cut my boards” daily by the one He first cut for me.