It's been a really, really lousy week for me. Ever since deciding to try to really live a life of discipline that will draw me closer to God, it seems like there has been a force working against that. I have been physically unwell and sort of laid bare before God physically and spiritually. This morning seems to finally be a bit of a moment of clarity after a week that brought me to my breaking point in so many ways. (I have a funny story about trying to run away from home last week, but that's another story for another day.)
One of the things that I decided was that I wanted to weigh and consider the thoughts that were going through my mind before I spoke them. (Or tweeted or facebooked them.) Speaking too quickly is a terrible habit/area of sin for me that God is revealing over and over. So I got this notebook out of the school supply closet and my favorite kind of pencil (DIXON Ticonderoga), and decided that when I was feeling angry, or grumpy, or happy, or content, or whatever (because I "feel" a lot), I'd just write it down and filter it through later-- trying to determine what is actually useful information to share with another human being (whether in person or via the interwebs.) There's so much noise in this world and I've been so guilty of contributing to it.
So-- I have pages and pages of my rants and raves. I was re-reading them this morning. It reads like the pages of an insane person's diary, if the truth be told. But there was this one verse that I read the other night that stood out in the pages of scribbles. It is from the book of Mark, chapter 4. Jesus has just told a parable (or "a story" if you read The Message version of the Bible) and then is explaining it a bit later.
Starting in verse 10, it says this--
"When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom-- you know how it works. But to those who can't see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people --
Whose eyes are open but don't see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don't understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven."
He continued, "Do you see how this story works? ALL my stories work this way.""
I had written that passage down because I am a big believer in stories. I love a great story. I love hearing them, reading them, telling them-- and I am also a big believer in living a life that tells a good story. So reading about Jesus talking with his beloved friends about WHY he tells stories was inspiring to me. I have sort of felt like part of my "job" in being a missionary is to tell the stories of the things I see and experience here. So it was great to kind of be affirmed in that "calling." Wait for it...
But then, this morning, I read more (and had this moment of clarity that perhaps I've missed a bit part of the point) in Mark 4:33-34. These words are written after Jesus had told another parable about God's kingdom.
"With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots."
This morning it hit me like a ton of bricks. The kinds of stories Jesus told were parables. He wasn't just telling a story for the sake of telling a story (as I am so often guilty of doing), the point was that it was a parable. A parable is a special kind of story that also has a hidden meaning aside from the obvious (I learned that years ago from the Donut Man and spent 10+ years in children's ministry teaching this kind of stuff to kids... I knew that already.) The idea that Jesus spoke in parables wasn't anything new to me, but this morning I just started to wonder--
- What if God STILL speaks in parables?
- What if every story, no matter how basic it seems, has a hidden meaning that points us to Christ?
- What if everything we see and experience is just another one of his parables to teach us about the kingdom of God? (Remember, he said, "ALL my stories work this way.")
- Could it be that our ENTIRE lives were meant to be parables?
You see, we live life and, on the surface, things can seem so clear. But couldn't that be Jesus "fitting the stories to our experience and maturity?" In verse 34 it talks about how it wasn't until Jesus was ALONE with his disciples that "he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots." We need to be alone with Jesus if we are going to discover and make of the hidden meanings of our parable-life-stories. He is the only one with answers. He is the only one who can untie the knots and sort out the tangles.
So my new challenge is to find the hidden meaning in our stories. What do they tell us about people? What do they tell us about life? What do they tell us about the kingdom of God? Let's spend some time with Jesus. Maybe he will explain it to us.
And PS- if you have an extra moment of time to waste, go check out Rob Evans website. It's quite amusing to me as an adult.