Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finishing God's Sentences

I really don't know how many of you do this: you're talking with someone and, as they are describing something, your brain jumps to their conclusion for them and you prepare a response based on your assumption of what they've not yet said. You may even (like I too often do) interrupt them with your response. If you don't do this, you've maybe had it "done" to you and so you know what I'm talking about.

Let me say that I know it's bad (almost all of the time) to do this and I am working at doing this less and less. Those of you who know me well can keep helping me with that...please.

But here is what I realized last night at our final Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) gathering -- the one where we hear/share testimonies of the ways God has used BSF this year in our lives to glorify himself in and through us:

I've grown too comfortable in my relationship with God in some ways. I've gotten so I've been finishing his sentences for him, I think. As we've studied Matthew this year, it's happened a few times and only in retrospect am I really seeing it.  

I found myself skimming passages that I thought were familiar to me and then answering questions based on what I thought the Word would say -- only to be caught by a question that made no sense or by someone else's answer in our small group time that made no sense to me. I'd sometimes (I wish I could say always) go back to the Word and read it more carefully and POP, the light would go on to something I'd never realized about God before. 

I read the wine-wineskins passage and heard it preached even -- many times -- but something about God's character and this truth hit me a few months ago when I finally shut up and listened rather than overlaying my interpretation on the Word before I let the Holy Spirit do his work in me. 

And the passage that described Jesus cursing the fig tree...I've been frustrated with that passage for years. I've assumed that Jesus was hungry and therefore (like I am when I'm too hungry) a bit cranky and he took it out on a poor tree. 

And metaphorically I've felt guilty reading the story because I don't always bear fruit and maybe Jesus will curse me for that. (In that guilt there is a mixture, I think, of good and bad theology.) 

This year I shut up long enough to see that Jesus' righteous anger was against those religious leaders who looked godly on the outside but who were not doing the things God does (caring for the poor, the orphans and widows, helping those who need a hand, fighting for justice for those oppressed by unfair systems, etc.) He wouldn't have cursed the fruitless fig tree had the tree not had the leaves (a sign that the fruit should be ripe since the flower and then fruit comes first on that kind of tree). 

Anyhow, the point isn't really about what specific passages are teaching me about God's character or activity -- or my own, for that matter. (At least the point of this blog isn't that.) I'm not sure I've got these things "right" yet, actually. And that is the point. I'm returning to a place where I'm more okay with not knowing...and that is helping me to listen longer, both to the Word and to others as they express the things that God's Spirit is showing them. 

I have so much to learn. 

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