May 14, 2020

When Old Lines Smear

My artwork was a mess. Bits of my rubber eraser lay scattered all over the desk. With a frustrated sigh, I looked at my drawing. The lighting was all wrong. The proportions were slightly off. Worst of all, the original white paper was turning into a smeared gray haze. I slowly raised my hand. 

“Teacher, I need help,” I finally admitted.

My teacher took one quick glance at my work and gave some unexpected advice.

“Don’t erase the lines,” he said as he pointed at faded lines created by hundreds of retries.

What? Don’t erase the mistakes? My brain screamed. 

He picked up my pencil and lightly drew the correct line. As he gave me back the pencil, he went on to explain: “If you erase the old lines right away, you’ll just draw them again.”


Jacob was on the run—both physically and emotionally. I can imagine how waves of fear and guilt dominated his thoughts. It had been only a couple days since he had been on top of the world. Yes, the deception part did dampen his success, but wearing goat skins and pretending to be his older twin brother had been the only way to get what he wanted. A few days ago, he had finally gotten it—the birthright blessing pronounced by his aging father. His cheated brother got angry and embraced the idea of revenge—not just any revenge, but the death of his younger brother. It was only a few days ago that his mother persuaded his father to send him away. To get a wife, she told him, but Jacob knew. He knew the journey would be more an exile of self-preservation. Suddenly, instead of privileged son and future heir, he was a lonely outcast. I can imagine he cried not just because he used a stone as a pillow, but because he was so isolated, so alone. He was now in a life he would have never imagined only a few days before.

It sounds familiar. A few short weeks ago I was a busy and happy college student. Like Jacob, I felt on top of the world. My life was planned out. I was packed for spring break; I was going to brave a weeklong canoe trip in Florida with friends. I had my applications filled out for summer jobs. But then everything changed.

I was in the library when I got the text message. All in-person classes would transition to online because of COVID-19.The dorms were closing too. So, instead of enjoying Florida sunshine, I spent my first day of spring break packing my entire college life into cardboard boxes. My plans spiraled downward from there. Suddenly, I was on lockdown with my family. People I knew told me of family members who were getting sick. Infection and death rates were on the rise. Unemployment rates were climbing. A few short weeks ago I could have never imagined this. I cried.


Jacob was alone, sleeping on a rock. But was he really alone? God sent him a dream. There was a ladder from earth to heaven with angels walking up and down its steps. And at the very top of the stairs the voice of God assured him that even though he was separated from his family, he was not separated from his God. Can you imagine Jacob when he woke up? Maybe he was damp from the early morning dew. Maybe he was shivering. Maybe his neck hurt. Regardless, something was different when the dawn broke across the sky. Jacob was smiling as he stared in awe at this once-forsaken place. He exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16, NKJV).* Then he took the rock he had slept on and poured precious oil on it as an offering and marker to God. A marker of remembrance that even in this no-man’s-land, Jacob had been in the house of God. 

Maybe I need a marker too. No, not a physical rock in my backyard with oil poured over it. I need a mental marker. I need to stop trying to erase the chaos of the unknown as my old life blends with my new reality. I need to draw a new line. A new line of hope that God was and is still here in whatever mess the world is in. 

Sarah Klingbeil is a sophomore at Southern Adventist University and a staff member of Southern Accent, the school paper.         

*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.