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your measuring tape

One of my favorite activities to do with a group is to lay a piece of rope on the floor or a stick in front of everyone and ask them how long it is without using any measuring tape. Usually I’ll cut the rope to a length of 11-14 inches, and I know exactly how long it is. I’ll tell the group that the rope is cut to a “whole inch” length, meaning it’s not a certain number of inches plus a fraction of some sort. I ask each member of the group to decide for themselves, without using a ruler or measuring tape. Once everyone has a number in mind, I ask them to form groups with those who are in agreement with them… and then the fun beings. Some people have lots of company, and some people are alone in their thinking. I begin to question people about how certain they are and tell them if they’d like to change their mind at any point in the discussion, they are free to change groups, or form a new group. As you can imagine, the discussion becomes lively as folks defend their position. Some people’s rationale and arguments are quite funny as they try to persuade others that they are right, or that other positions are wrong. After all, we’re discussing a piece of rope! At some point, I’ll ask if there is the possibility that more than one group/position can be right, and of course everyone agrees that there is only one right answer. It’s interesting to watch as people either become more entrenched in their position, or if they waffle and change to another. After a while, I’ll bring out a measuring tape and reveal the true length, and the celebration/disappointment/(insert other emotion here) begins.

So, what’s the big deal about this whole exercise? The length of the rope never changed, regardless of the discussion or persuasive ideas presented. Until the measuring tape was used to settle the discussion, other “measuring sticks” were used, so other “answers” were derived, from whatever means. Interestingly, in the numerous times I have done this exercise, no one has ever disputed (with seriousness) the validity of the tape measure. Everyone accepted the tape measure as a truthful and absolute measure.

In our daily lives, we measure rope lengths all day, every day. Life presents lots of ethical and spiritual issues that we must make decisions about. We hear the arguments for and against, and like it or not, we must decide as well. Our answer, our decision, will be determined by our measuring tape. If we use “how happy we will be” as our measuring tape, guess what? The length of the rope will be different in a few days, or maybe in a few hours. The same is true if we use money, or public opinion or any other measuring tape that is not constant. (Just think about how fast public opinion changes about political candidates or fashion styles… or what laws we ought to have or not have.)

You are probably ahead of me here- there is only one absolute measure- the Word of God. It will never change according to time, culture, age, or any other factor. I can promise you this- it will not be the most popular measuring stick, and people will shout it down and try to persuade others to their position based on their different measuring tape. However, one day, the Lord God will reveal the length of the rope to everyone, using His absolute truth as the measure, and any further discussion will be futile. The good news is we don’t have to wait until then. God’s love is so great, He has revealed His love and truth in His Word, so we don’t have to wonder if we’re guessing correctly. I guess it all comes down to this- will we accept His measure, His ways, as truth?


Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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