Monday, September 7, 2009

Where's Waldo?

When I was growing up, my mother constantly complained about the plastic cups that I left in every room of the house. Now, years later, my own house is laden with randomly placed cups of water.

It’s not that I’m lazy. Quite the opposite.

As soon as I fill a cup of water to quench my thirst, I get distracted by a thought of a task I need to complete, a ringing phone, or a child. I then absentmindedly place the cup on some uncommon object like a bookshelf, window ledge, the dryer, or a shelf above my head.

Much like the unnamed laborer in Robert Frost’s “The Wood Pile” who “spent himself, the labour of his axe” only to “forget his handiwork” in the midst of a swamp, I, too, lose my train of thought because I keep moving. I am, as Frost says, “Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks.”

The problem comes when I grow thirsty again and try to find that cup. In my search, I will quickly cross back and forth in front of it, musing aloud, “I know I left it here just a minute ago?” It's like a real-life, more-frustrating version of "Where's Waldo?" Sometimes, my husband joins in the hunt. We eventually find it hiding in plain sight in a place we called ourselves looking at only moments before.

My search for truth and direction in The Bible is much like my search for these literal cups of water.

Each evening, I sit, Bible open in my lap, pen in hand, ready to receive a word from the Lord through His holy Scriptures. But after a day of wrangling with three small children as well as dealing with household and job issues, my thirst for God’s Word usually overcomes me and I have a tendency to gulp down the Scripture in front of me.

I’ve read all the Scriptures before. I’ve memorized many of them. I know the Old Testament stories.

And therein lies the danger.

Just like I pass by my water cup sitting right before my eyes, I often pass by the message God has for me because, in truth, I only think I know what the well-known Scriptures have to say. I know only what the Spirit has revealed to me thus far.

As such, I constantly have to remind myself to slow down, to read each word of each verse and to read them again. If I blow through the familiar verses, I might miss a word or a phrase I didn’t see before. Or I might miss a different message God is trying to impart to me through a verse that I knew but that had little meaning (or a different meaning) for me at an earlier reading.

Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life imparts this same message: “We think we know what a verse says because we have read it or heard it so many times,” says Warren. “Then when we find it quoted in a book, we skim over it and miss the full meaning.”

Take the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as an example of a Christian’s interacting with the Word. When Jesus came upon a few of his disciples, they initially did not recognize him. Even as they walked together and Jesus expounded upon all the Scriptures relating to Himself, they still were clueless. Only after He broke bread with them were their eyes “opened and they knew Him” (Luke 24:31). Afterwards, “And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?'” (Luke 24:32).

These disciples’ new understanding of the Scripture, of the Word made flesh, was not the result of being given any new word, any new scripture. Instead, they were enabled to see what was right before their eyes all along once their eyes were no longer veiled. The Spirit illuminated the truth in their hearts just like it can do in our hearts.

This week as you spend time in God’s Word, SLOW DOWN! Our prayer should be as David’s was: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). Read a passage several times. Read each word. Although God’s Word was “in the beginning,” God still has new revelations, which the Spirit will reveal to you as you carefully study the Scriptures (John 1:1).

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