Beyond the Catch-Phrase
Have you seen those gimmicks on social media that ask if the car is blue or green? You plunk in your answer only to learn the car was actually green when you said blue, or vice versa. It’s not a new lesson; either our DNA or our perspective can take us down a completely different path than the person next to us.
At one point I was part of a ministry that emphasized learning Scripture as one of its core values. I learned how to navigate the Bible, to understand the nature of God and how He wants to interact with us. (Confession: I was just a tiny bit of an over-achiever back then. And laid-back was only used in reference to a car seat.) If the Scripture passages were about self-discipline, I was going to be the most self-disciplined. If they were about purity, I was going to be the purest.
Scripture is amazing, and timeless. There are a myriad of teachings that convey God’s heart toward mankind and His standards. The Sermon on the Mount from the Gospels and Jesus’ numerous parables teach us life lessons for relationships, money, time, and prayer. The fruits of the Spirit give the briefest insight into the outcomes of a God-centered life, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Still working on some of those…) The Epistles teach us how to live in community with one another, as followers of Christ, how to love and forgive.
In any culture young adults find affinity in groups and doing things together. It’s an exciting time of life, with new-found independence and (hopefully) income. Everyone dresses alike, group-thinks and adopts trendy catch-phrases to reflect their one-ness. One such phrase we adopted was the pursuit of “God’s best” for our lives. It was sort of a shared core-value, and it got tossed around more than a set of Yahtzee dice. “You could go to New Jersey but you want God’s best for your life, don’t you?” or “You could become the Surgeon General but maybe that wouldn’t be God’s best.”
Whether in this group or some other, catch-phrases or group-think mindsets evolve. Most likely God’s best was originally intended to imply a life surrendered to God’s ways and standards. Instead we inferred a sort of nirvana of a painless future with dreams fulfilled, and problems solved. At what point did fantasy replace an authentic pursuit of godliness? Speaking of which, what would the phrase, God’s best have meant to Mother Theresa? Based on the evidence of her life, it must have meant a life spent emulating the Gospels, i.e., feeding, clothing and loving the unloved, where ever God led her, i.e., Calcutta.
This diatribe about God’s best is only one example but a ginger, truthful examination reveals much. I, for one, bacon-wrap phrases and principles with my own dreams or wounds and then pin it on God with questions, pain or expectations. Suppose my visual of God’s best has always entailed the proverbial white picket fence, a husband, and 2.3 children and a dog. Wouldn’t that be misleading for me as a condo-renting, non-parental, non-dog owning single? It’s a lens that I see through, and one that can lead me to misunderstand God’s abundance toward me.
What if we were to choose authenticity over catch phrases and clarity over shallow communications? What if we were to stand in the midst of what’s done and dreams unfulfilled and took the risk of owning our life, calling it what it is, and reaching toward the One who gave His only Son?
2013: When Morning Comes
The correlation between grace and the Israelites’ manna was so rich, it seemed worthy of a Part Two!
While you were sleeping I looked at the verses a bit more and I hit the skids when I read verse 35:
“The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” — Exod 16:35
With the Israelites’ arrival at the border there was a shift that was about to occur in their culture, on their perspectives about freedom, government, day-to-day provision and much more. Most had never known anything but a lifestyle of nomadic wandering. Their lives were centered around the present moment, around this day just like the manna was supplied for one day at a time. I think we could even perceive manna to be an economy of sorts.
We also have this way of living. Our way of doing life. Manna, for us then, is the substance of our faith, the fibers of our communion with God.
The promises that hovered over the Israelites belong to us as well. Looking at verse 9, we know with certainty that the ragged and raw places that threaten at the periphery of our lives cannot touch the hidden core of who we are because, “in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord”. You see, when the Presence of the Lord invades our hearts, all our resistance melts like so much day-old manna. When morning comes to our hearts we feel Him. We feel His revelation stealing into places that were previously old and cold.
What is the manna of your relationship with The Spirit of God? The substance of your connection with Him, the umbilical cord of life flowing from Him to you, is found in a secret place. The starkness of the world, the drone of its demands on you have compelled you to hide this life-giving interchange. And yet the world longs to see the glow of your communion with Him.
How do we carry that glow in such a way that it is seen …the truth of what life in Christ is all about, and yet protect it like the petals of the rose that it is?
We only have today. Use it well. Live intentionally.