Have you ever watched a young toddler play as he or she matches each plastic shape with the corresponding cut out in a familiar type of children’s toy? The concentration on the child’s face, their little fingers moving as much-needed shape recognition and fine motor skills are developed. Then the squeal of delight as the perfect match is discovered. Triangle fits triangle. Circle fits circle. Square fits square.
As toddlers learn, this ability to distinguish shapes, known as shape bias, can be encouraged to help them to learn early vocabulary by gathering like shapes together and repeating the shape name. Improved fine motor skills will help them build confidence and for some, will lead to careers as master craftsmen or artisans. It is an important part of the human learning process, especially in the early stages of development.
It is at this age that we learn that a square peg does not fit a round hole.
There is some wisdom to this expression. A lot of time and energy can be expended trying to force fit a person or even one’s self into a situation that does not fit. We might finally speak up and say, “a leopard can’t change its spots” when we are not willing to change. We like to work with people who are like us to reinforce what we already believe or know to be true about ourselves. We can get comfortable and complacent in careers that are very much in tune with our skills and competencies.
We like to swim in familiar waters, seeking a comfortable life.
But is this God’s best for us?
Now, please do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating forcing yourself or someone else into an awkward situation. What I would like to explore is the idea of the square peg that appears in our lives at unexpected times-the difficult person, the trying situation or the trait that surfaces in ourselves that feels completely out of character. It is at times like these that we might learn that change is necessary.
Square peg. Round hole.
According to dictionary.com, a square peg in a round hole is “a misfit, especially a person who is unsuited for a position or an activity.” The square peg’s appearance in our life may be a prompting from God that He is about to start smoothing out or refining some of the rougher edges in our character. This is a life-long process…and it is a gift. We all need work. Truly. We know this to be true. If we are not aware of this, then we are not listening to those closest to us. And it can sometimes be through our work that God accomplishes His best work in or through us.
The psalmist in Psalm 90 declares, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).
In the Christian life, one that is fully and joyfully submitted to God through Christ, we are sometimes given a square peg with which to work. And as we scratch our heads wondering what we are supposed to do, the immediate results are sometimes not so great! In our impatience or our wrestling for control, square pegs can cause frustration, tension, grumbling and even rebellion as we ask God to give us another peg or another task. After all, we learned at a very early age that square pegs do not fit round holes. It simply does not work.
But wait…this time, He might be trying to teach us something.
In Exodus 25, God commands the prophet Moses to have the people build a sanctuary where He can dwell among the Israelites. The subsequent chapters provide very detailed instruction of an enormous task from God to Moses. Now Moses like many of us could be caught up in discouragement or frustration (Exodus 6:12) and insecurities (Exodus 6:30). At one point, he even asked God to “send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Now take a look at what happens in Exodus chapter 31:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!” (Exodus 31:1-5, NLT).
Did you catch that? God, in His grace, provided the ever-protesting Moses with Bezalel, who through the power of the Holy Spirit, had great wisdom, ability and expertise and was a master at every craft. In other words, neither Moses nor Bezalel were equipped when they were called, but as the following chapters attest, they were empowered by God and accomplished great things.
But remember that we are not saved by our accomplishments or our good deeds, only by grace: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). And we are also empowered by grace, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”(Ephesians 2:10, NIV).
Square pegs come in all shapes and sizes. The next time a square peg appears that seems to be an impossible fit, consider this: Perhaps we are the “misfit”, and it is our awesome Creator who is handling the placement. As in the image above, we are being gently and skillfully shaped into something infinitely more beautiful. The wheels turn on the lathe, and the Craftsman applies His chisel with precision. There might be an experience of dizziness or disorientation for us at times, but when we release control and fix our eyes on Jesus, we grow in faith and become more and more like Him.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Photo credit: CarlosAndreSantos