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  • Melinda K. Bowens

(Sub)stitutions are (Sub)par

(Sub)stitutions are (Sub)par So, if you've been following my blog for a minute now, you know that most of my life revelations come while teaching or while in Target (I mean, both are life changing experiences if I do them right). And this week of life events did not disappoint! Even though it’s the summertime, classes are still going strong for us. And ideally, I thought teaching primarily online for the summer would be a breeze (I maybe overshot the optimism there) and that students would appreciate not having to meet with me face-to-face (there goes that optimism again). But I had a student come in not too long ago for help with an assignment, which is great, but she appeared much more flustered than usual. Side note: Now, to know me is to know that I won't give a student an answer, but I will help them find it if they're willing to look (feel free to blame my parents for this one). But the more we talked about the assignment, the more anxious and confused she appeared to become. And if I'm being honest, the more confused she appeared, the more annoyed and tired I became (don't judge my life, I didn't have snacks that day). As I was quietly wishing she would leave my office, I silently said a prayer asking God to show me the meaning in that moment (well, technically the prayer was to fix my attitude, then for meaning). Finally, I just stopped and asked her, "Have you read the book chapter yet?" Without missing a beat, she replied with, "No, ma'am." Now let's ignore my youth I felt slipping away when she called me ma'am. But God gave me the meaning I was looking for in that one statement.


While I so annoyed in the moment, I realized she was doing something we do with God all the time. She wanted a substitution for the real work that needed to be done. There was a task in front of her, the blueprint was available, but she wanted the easier option. And if that doesn't sound like us with God sometimes!

How often have we found ourselves in a place where we know what we need to do for God, we know how we need to do it, but we would just prefer an easier route?! Anyone else besides me? (I’m imagining you waving your hands back at me, just so you know) It's such a human thing to desire the easier option; especially when we live in a time and place where the goal is to do the least amount of work for the most return. While that's a great business model, it's bad life model. See, the thing about (sub)stitutions is they're (sub)par. Because for there to be a substitution in the first place, there was something else we originally desired. And I'm a firm believer that some things just shouldn't be substituted; like waffle fries for the fruit cup at Chick-fil-a. It just isn't worth it.


Just in case you were wondering why I keep putting the word sub in parentheses, this is why. I'm a little bit of a nerd (and by little, I mean a lot), so I looked up the definition of sub (since I haven't studied prefixes since the 8th grade) and here's what I found.

Sub means: 1. To lower in rank 2. To lower a position 3. To be of smaller size 4. To be of lesser quality or inferior

I ask again, is a (sub)stitution really worth it? That thing (or person or place or idea) that we’re holding on to tighter than God, is it worth it? If what we originally desired was a full life with God, why would we accept a lower rank or position? Why would we want our relationship with Him to be smaller or of lesser quality? Choose your position today. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 NLT

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