A Chromatogram, Not A Ladder
This is a hard saying. It’s just so completely foreign to the way we view the world that it is almost impossible to get our heads around (let alone to live like it is true). And for younger Christians, or those who particularly struggle with people-pleasing or performance-related issues, it can be one of the chinks in the armour through which the enemy wheedles his sharpest spears.
I’ve been speaking to several people at my church recently who are deeply discouraged because they don’t feel like they’re ‘making it’. Their friends are being invited to step up into leadership positions - of ministry teams, or Bible study groups or whatever - and they are being overlooked. It hurts. And it can be confusing. They might try to tell themselves it’s not a scale; it’s not about promotion, but when everything else in life is measured by achievement, it’s incredibly hard to imagine how it could be otherwise.
As I spoke with one person this week, I had a sudden revelation of how she could replace the ladder image with a more helpful picture. A chromatogram.
Chromatography is something you probably did in science at school. You put a dot of ink or food colouring near one end of a strip of paper, dip the end of the paper in water, and watch the component colours of the ink travel up the paper and separate from one another. The image above shows where some guy on the internet tried this with various different inks.
Look at the red one, 6th from the left.
The orange colour in that is no ‘better’ than the pinks beneath it. Nor is the Oxblood ink beside it better because it shot further up the paper, or has all its colours gathered at the top. The dark blue at the end isn’t a failure for having only spread a short way up the paper.
Each dye has a different chemical make up, a different density and a different manifestation. They respond differently to a stimulus, and are visible at different points along the paper, but neither is better or worse than the other. Neither has achieved more, or is more worthy of glory and praise.
In fact, every single one of those chemical compounds was necessary to make up the one colour of ink that the writer wanted. Many of them are unexpected - why would you need yellow to make up that Oxblood?
But let not the yellow say ‘because I am not a pink, you have no need of me’. And let not the orange say ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a magenta like that colour down there’. For we are all one body with many parts. Each is essential, and those parts which are often dishonoured are to receive greater honour.
Yes, we are to grow in maturity and faithfulness. Yes, we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. But it is for the purpose of glorifying God, not receiving praise and honour from man.
It’s a chromatogram, not a ladder.