Procrustes…One Size Fits All

–by Sharon Merhalski

I open this devotion with a question: How big is God?

In Greek mythology there was a man named Procrustes (proh-KRUS-teez). He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night’s rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described the bed as having the unique property that its length exactly matched who would lay down on it. What Procrustes didn’t say was the method by which this “one-size-fits-all” was achieved. As soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed by cutting off his head and his feet.

This information on Procrustes was sent to me by a friend who asked me to think about this word picture in relationship to raising children, concerning marriage…and especially a church organization. I sensed God wanted me to do as my friend had asked and I have spent a little more than a week considering the concept of “one size fits all”…and the reaction of many when someone doesn’t ‘fit’.

During this time of musing I first remembered many Christian teen-agers who flew the coop when they turned eighteen. Some left home steeped in sin but some left home because they needed to bust out of the very little ‘bed’ that chopped off their ability to exercise God-given gifts or any individuality in actions or thinking. I’m not talking about sinful things or ungodly standards. Rather, I’m talking about individuality and exercising how God uniquely created them. A young man comes to mind right now who loved baseball and his dad would never even take him to a baseball game because there was sinful influence there. (To that dad I say then don’t go to the grocery store either.) I’ve also considered those children who were stretched to fit the ‘bed’ mom and dad made for them, i.e. the untalented child made to play an instrument because the church orchestra needed it, the clumsy child made to play sports or the shy or tone deaf child made to take singing lessons so they could serve God mom and dad’s way. I could to on and on.

I have also taken time to consider marriage and I think I could write a book on this topic. I have thought about domineering control, anger or rage… sometimes escalating to physical abuse because one spouse doesn’t think like, act like or talk like the other spouse. The result: The offending spouse is kept on the Proscrustean bed where they are, at the least uncomfortable, and too often miserable in deep pain emotionally, spiritually and all-too-often physically.

My main focus in considering this story from mythology has been on the local church and what far too many of them have become. The person who sent me the story of the Procrustean bed asked, “Isn’t the modern church a Procrustean bed? How often do churches chop off/dismiss portions of the Word of God because they do not fit the ‘shape’ of the church? And how often is Scripture stretched to fit the mold of the ‘organization’?

My pervasive thought: This also speaks to a church organization stretching someone beyond their gifts, time, health and talents to make them fit a place of service/ministry until they burn out or leave the church. And the other side of the picture…cutting off their gifts and talents because they do not fit the church structure. I have both seen it in others and personally experienced the frustration and discouragement because God-given talents and gifts would not be used. Why? Because the ‘bed’ the church built for the members—or prospective members–was never adjustable to fit all of God’s children.

There is a very popular nationally known pastor who wrote a book, a manual of sorts, for churches to use to experience great growth and influence. In that book he promotes the idea that churches should make sure people are a “good fit” before they are accepted into the membership. Good fit? Were those saved on the day of Pentecost questioned concerning being a ‘good fit’ for the church before they were added to the church? My Bible doesn’t say that. In over 39 years in solid Baptist Churches I have never before heard such cookie cutter garbage thinking.

I will leave you with this story of Procrustes and the following Scriptures and invite you to contact me with your thoughts.

Act 10:34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:”
[Strong’s Concordance—respecter: one exhibiting partiality.]

1Timothy 4:14 “Neglect not the gift that is in thee…”
[Strong’s Concordance—1) neglect: ; to be careless of: – make light of, neglect, be negligent, not regard. 2) gift: a (divine) gratuity, that is, deliverance (from danger or passion); (specifically) a (spiritual) endowment, that is, (subjectively) religious qualification, or (objectively) miraculous faculty: – (free) gift.]

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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