To My Precious Grandchildren (Gracyn, Hallie, Sullivan and Hudson)
One day you will be old enough to read what your Pop wrote to you on February 27, 2014. In the event that you ever wonder what made my grandpa tick, I will give you a hint by explaining why I write.
When I am writing I am learning. Forcing myself to grasp something well enough to express it in words takes me through a process of thought and consideration that helps me take some ownership of the concepts (which is essential if I am to live them out). I think of writing as meditation with a crutch. It may even be more appropriate to just call my ramblings rumination in print. I would encourage you to experiment with writing to see what it might yield, I will share how I typically go about it most mornings.
As I think about this process, I realize that I am always reading scripture on two levels and that the activity on those levels is underway concurrently. I will start by describing what I percieve to be going on at the level of my mind. I will typically read a passage through several times often in different translations. At the outset I am just trying to get the story straight. Years of doing inductive bible study engrained the habit of asking lots of questions such as; Who’s is speaking? Who are they speaking to? What are these people’s circumstances? What is the relationship of the speaker to his audience? What has prompted this communication? These questions always produce more questions – new trails to follow. Because there are typically so many, the trick becomes choosing the right ones.
Even though the process feels a bit mechanical at first, it quickly changes as things at a deeper level kick in. At this level, which I would call my spirit, things are more personal than academic. Between the Lord and myself, on this plane, there is an understanding (more keenly on his side than mine I suspect) that my heart belongs to him and because of this he has permission in advance to question, reprove, teach, encourage and train me with his Truth.
When I think about scripture, I don’t think of it as just being truthful. That is way to static. I think of it as being alive – as Truth itself is alive in spirit. In other words, the scriptures are inspired by way of their nature which is Truth. However, since I am a descendent of Adam and have lived in a world hostile to God, my thinking is not all accurate or true. Where I am still believing half-truths (and even blatant lies) I am not yet free. At this personal level, between my spirit and God’s, there is a process of liberation underway. He came to set captives (like me) free, and it is Jesus, the Truth who is my Way and my Life. All this to say, the mechanical first steps I take are just an introduction into the spirit to spirit communion with God that I was created for. With these thoughts serving as the backdrop, even the academic part takes on more meaning because I know from experience how frequently this digging process has uncovered priceless treasure.
With the assumption that God knows where I am; that He is good and that He is intentional, I assume that He is speaking to me always through his word. Somehow, that word of scripture relates to me because it and I (with my new heart) share the same DNA. So, as things are whirring on two levels, I am also asking, “What do I have in common with the people in this narrative?”
There may be a great fork in the road at this point. The pure academic might shun that question, choosing the path that requires deeper understanding of the original language. They may require much deeper understanding of the historical context before they dare think that the scriptures might yield them any holy treasure. This is typically not the path I take because…
Christ’s disciples were not scholars. In fact, if you look for scholars and trained seminarians in the early church, you will strain your eyes. Jesus himself was a common man. He spoke a common man’s dialect. It feels quite awkward to say this, but Jesus was not an educated man (in the formal sense). Yet, even from his honest and boyish heart came questions and insights that held even the scholarly priests spellbound. All this to say, I operate with the assumption that Truth has not been reserved for academics. It was always intended to be accessible to common men who were inclined to obey it; to discover its author; not just to study it to death. It was always about the spirit, not the letter.
When I think of the bible and it being inspired, a historically accurate book filled with truthful moral principles is not what first comes to my mind. While these things may be true, I think of scripture being inspired in the dynamic sense of a catalyst – something that sets my spirit in motion and propels it along a pathway of discovery. It is not just information to log away in my data storage that I may access in order to live a moral or profitable life. By virtue of its spirit nature it awakens and stirs the spirit Life (and nature) that is already in me.
Within the well-settled Christian camps there seems to be a great divide. One camp leans hard on formal academics. The thought for these folks having anything other than a seminary grad feeding the flock their weekly or bi-weekly ration would be practically unthinkable. Other camps, often filled with travelers less inclined to study, will read the bible but would not feel they have in any way been locked out of the inner sanctuary of Truth for want of academics. These believers may be inclined to trust the inner promptings of the Spirit without much attention to the bible.
I have wondered if when Jesus said that he was seeking those who would worship him in spirit and in truth if he did not mean that he was looking for those who recognize how God had made them with both a soul and a spirit; beings designed to listen to God’s voice with these two vital dimensions within them working in concert; where both the cognitive and intuitive are in play; where the objective and subjective are in balance. I have wondered if this idea was ever realized on a broader scale if it would not bring much healing in the Body of Christ where rigid religious black and white thinking has wounded and isolated so many.
If our circumstances find us, like Elijah, collapsed beneath the broom brush, intimidated and without motivation to proceed, perhaps God would say to us, “Get up and eat.” and then even, “Get up and eat some more.” Perhaps you have expected to encounter God in a dramatic and obvious show of power. He certainly has been known to do that! But don’t rule out the possibility, that in his faithfulness, he has been present and has been speaking to you all along from his place of residence within you. I would encourage you to experiment with reading and writing as one means of hearing God’s voice. Perhaps we will hear God’s voice in the same tone Elijah finally heard it – in a subtle whisper. Maybe the answer to us frequently when we are in the doldrums is simply, “Rise and feed yourself.” I am proposing for some, perhaps you, that your pen (as it has with me) will become your fork.
Father, May we learn to feed ourselves and live by all the words that have proceeded and shall proceed from your mouth. Help us to personally make your words our words. May the living word of God pierce our hearts. May it subdue and conquer the traditions of men that we have exalted in our hearts above your words. Amen.