Chalkboards seem to have made a big comeback, right? Not really in the classroom but more so in the realm of interior design and hand-lettering. We’ve all seen the quirky sandwich boards and cabinet doors with beautiful loop-de-loops. Scripture verses, inspirational quotes, the weekly dinner menu, the shopping list, the chore chart, declarations on how many times your kid successfully used the potty—all look like artisan achievements that scream:
And don’t forget Instagram-worthy.
On a recent visit to the craft store, I came across dustless chalk. No mess. No breathing in the powder. Genius! It was enough to entice me to give chalkboard art a try. I hurried home with my new writing utensils and a pewter-framed chalkboard.
Now, I don’t remember what I wrote exactly. It was definitely a call to action. A move toward trust and faith. I think I mulled over at least a dozen highlighted verses in my Bible and too many underlined passages in books I was reading. What I do very much remember was the process.
I held the fresh chalk stick like a wand, index finger pointed, as I beckoned my creative gifts to produce a beautiful script that would charm and challenge my visitors.
Time to proceed.
No, that loop looks juvenile. Erase.
That doesn’t even look like a letter of the alphabet…any alphabet! Erase.
I ran out of room. Erase.
Wait—STOP! What is that?
Scratches, scratches, scratches! My new chalkboard was full of lacerations. Forever.
These too-hard, no-dust, devil-writing tools!
I grunted loudly and reminded myself that I used a 40 percent off coupon to calm myself down. I ferociously rummaged through our craft cabinet for normal chalk before our small group arrived.
Later, after everyone left, I sat back and stared at my chalkboard art. I laughed to myself since no one had even noticed it. But then I felt my heart still as I recalled how this creativity came to be. Questions weaved inside my mind as I realized I had created a masterpiece devoted to the idol of self.
WAS THIS PROJECT ABOUT GOD’S EFFORTS OR MINE?
In the ancient Corinthian church, divisions brewed as some saw Paul as the one to follow while others saw Apollos as the better leader. Paul, however, wanted them to focus on what God was doing: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Now, it wasn’t bad that I wanted to make a beautiful art piece or even that I used dustless chalk (well, maybe). What was unfortunate was my steeping in the angry brew of getting it ‘just right’ (not to mention the abundance of scratches on my sacred new board). I wasn’t focused on the message itself or how God would use it. It wasn’t until much later that I was made aware by the Spirit that my efforts were in vain—no matter how well my project turned out—if they were not sourced in Him.
PUTTING HUMILITY FIRST ON MY SUPPLY LIST
God’s really good at calling people out, especially when they’re not acting humble. This project started with how smart, spiritual, and artsy I was. Paul continues with his humility check in 1 Corinthians 3:18: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.”
Oof. That hurts.
The book of Proverbs is also well-known for its advice about humility:
“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33).
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
How odd it is that even in ministry or doing good deeds, we simply want to push God out of the way. My pride focused on what I could bring to the table (or chalkboard), rather than willingly being a humble part of what God had purposed for the evening, whatever that looked like.
Nowadays, if you come to our house, you may see my chalkboard blank. Yes, completely bare. When I feel a desire to plant a new encouraging verse or quote, I erase the board and let the creativity marinate a bit. Life happens, so sometimes it can be days or over a week before I get to take out my chalk. And during exceptionally beautiful occurrences, God has something else that vetoes what I originally destined for the chalkboard.
For many of us, a blank chalkboard is an opportunity to surrender. May it bloom into larger acts of dying to self and realizing our gifts come solely from the Ultimate Creator.
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