Friday, July 13, 2012

Would I Do This If.... ~ Life Lessons from Chemistry

High school had a lot of chemistry. Sometimes we even learned about it in the classroom.

Like most people, I took a chemistry class that had a classroom portion and a lab portion. One of the more interesting things I saw in lab was litmus paper. When litmus paper is dipped in acid it turns red, when it encounters a base it turns blue. It's a simple test to help you identify what you're working with.

Life Needs More Litmus

We need litmus tests in life. Ideally, we'll hold everything up to the Bible Sometimes that's easy. There are verses that pretty clearly speak out against going on a drunken bender or sleeping around. Other times is can be difficult. God didn't have Paul write a letter to the future church about how to drive or what books to read or what to watch on TV.

This is where I think litmus tests are valuable. Gauges that we use to keep us from crossing a line. These can be determined ahead of time, when our thinking is clear, instead of in the heat of the moment, when that movie looks really appealing and we have to decide whether or not to watch it.

Selecting A Test

When selecting your Life Litmus, it needs to meet the following criteria:

1. It needs to be important to you. If the test doesn't mean anything to you, it won't be strong enough to grab your attention when you need it to.

2. It needs to be simple. Litmus paper is either red or blue. Yes or No questions work best as litmus tests. If your test is too complicated, it's easy to justify your way around it.

3. It needs to hold you accountable. If your test includes consequences such as disappointing looks from (enter your chosen celebrity here) and you don't actually know that person, your test is pretty invalid. Because the potential consequences are never going to happen.

4. It needs to keep you holy.  Select a test that's going to keep you as close to Biblical principles as possible. Avoid the world's standards.

An Example

When I was in high school, I developed a litmus test for my television watching. If I couldn't sit with my parents and watch a show, then I didn't need to be watching it. I remember a distinct moment when this test forced me to drop a show I had been watching for years.

I used to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Several seasons in, I was watching an episode with my dad and all I wanted to do was change the channel. The show had degraded (or I had matured... probably a bit of both) to the point that it no longer passed the test. I gave it up.

Now my test is my husband. Can I watch the show while holding hands with my husband on the couch? Would I take him to see this movie with me?

Why We Need It

Life is easy to get caught up in. We get distracted by our friends or forget to stop and think things through. We need a gut check, a way to keep ourselves on the right path.

Because life doesn't have a rewind button.

Suggestions for Litmus Tests

There are a few tests I think everyone needs. Think about your life, consider your priorities, and make some tests for yourself in these areas.

1. Media Television, movies, music, and other forms of entertainment are really easy to get swept up in. And you can't unsee/unhear anything. Once it's in your head, Satan can remind you of it at the least convenient moments.

2. Social Media Cyberspace is forever. Have a test you consider before you update your status or post that picture. Job opportunities have been lost because of indiscreet postings on facebook. Mine is leftover from the corporate world. When I worked for a large company, we had the New York Times test. Would it be okay if that email you're about to send got published on the front page of the New York Times? If not, don't send it. That one has worked really well for me.

3. Hangouts This can include companions and locations. Falling in with the wrong crowd will get you in more trouble faster than anything else. Have a test to keep you from falling in the first place.

Do you have litmus tests? Are you creating some? I'd love for you to share them in the comments below.

Pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Paul says--
    New International Version (©1984)
    "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.

  2. So what do you use to decide what you do?