Chinese Finger Trap

by Brian Eno/ October 21, 2019

Do you behave differently when you’re in a hurry versus when you are not in a hurry? 


I know when I’m feeling hurried, I become impatient, distracted, and uncompassionate.


Not too long ago I read a book a mentor recommended titled An Unhurried Leader. In the book the author, Alan Fadling, used an old childhood toy called The Chinese Finger Trap as an example of how to respond when we become hurried and anxious.


Do you remember this childhood toy? It’s a toy made of thin bamboo-like paper. When a child puts his/her fingers inside and pulls, the trap tightens on each of the fingers, keeping the child from escaping. Without thinking, the child’s instinct is to get out of the trap, so the tendency is to pull harder. But the harder the child pulls, the tighter the trap becomes. To escape the trap, the child needs to do the opposite of what seems right. Instead of pulling, he/she simply needs to push fingers toward each other. When they do this, it will loosen the trap enough to extricate the tiny fingers.


When you get into hurried, anxious situations, how do you respond? Are you like the child, trying harder and harder, only to find life getting even more hurried and tighter? Hard work and effort are good, but they will never be good enough. 


Instead, during those times, we must heed the Word of the Lord recorded in the book of Isaiah, “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”’ (Isaiah 30:15, NIV).


When we get into a hurried, anxious place in our lives, we must learn from the Lord and this child’s toy—to do the opposite of what we would normally do impulsively. We must Repent, Rest, be Quiet, and Trust.


Zechariah 4:6, NIV, tells us it is “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.