When I was 12, the eye doctor discovered that I desperately needed glasses. He told me that although I could see close up just fine, anything at a distance was just a blur to me. I wasn’t that concerned about it; from my perspective, I could see just fine. In fact, from where I stood, there was no discernible difference between myself and anyone else. We all had eyes – surely we were all seeing the same things. I chose a pair of glasses based off the reactions I imagined family and friends would have when they saw my new frames, and had absolutely zero expectation that anything about me or my life was going to be impacted.
When I arrived to pick up the glasses, my concern the whole drive to the office was about whether they would look right on my face, whether other people would notice them, if they would make me look weird, or if I would awkwardly stand out because of them. The fitting went quickly, and because I was so focused on looking at my face in a mirror that was directly in front of me, I didn’t notice any real, sight-related changes.
When I stepped out into the world with my new prescription, however, I could SEE. Trees had individual leaves, not only when you stood near them but also from a distance. You could actually read the signs posted on the roadside as you approached them, not in the single second before they flashed by. I could scan Main Street and know what every store was called without having to walk up to it. When someone smiled, or frowned, or waved hello, I could respond in an appropriate manner.
I could SEE.
I felt so frustrated that everyone else could SEE, had been able to SEE, all this time, and I had not. I wanted to attribute that frustration somewhere – to say, “Why didn’t you tell me it was this easy? That I should have been able to see all these things, all this time?” I felt bewildered that no one else was shocked and amazed by this secret called 20/20 vision.
Looking back, I know that others mentioning their vision to me would have done nothing. When the eye doctor himself had told me my eyes were quite bad and I was going to need glasses, I had discounted it, walked out undisturbed. I knew that the way I saw things was perfectly fine. I had focused on the cosmetic appeal of glasses, of how they would make me look to others – I had had no frame of reference to understand that they would change how I would see the world.
As humans, we journey through this world *seeing* from our own broken perspective and eyes. No matter how good we try to be, how many rules we follow, how “moral” we attempt to be, we fall pitiably short. We don’t know just how bad our vision is, how much we are missing out on, how little we can really see.
When we encounter Christ, He is the perfect standard, 20/20 vision, the One we must cling to and see through if we want any hope of seeing rightly. When we see through Him as our standard, we cannot help but change our view the world and its people. The scales fall off, and we realize how little we have seen in the past, how skewed our version of everything really was.
I wonder how many of us enter the church, walk right past Christ and smile, nod, wander off to look at frames and ponder what other people will think of us, how we will look, whether we will fit in…and end up forgetting to fill the prescription at all, much less wear it out into the world.
Frames themselves are quite cheap, and they come ready filled with plastic “lenses” that don’t change a single thing about your vision. You can easily acquire the look, without ever tasting the transformation.
How many people in the pews today found the “frame shop”, but missed out on a Christ-filled transformation of their vision?
Something else, something important: prescriptions are not a one and done deal. I visit an eye doctor annually – over the years the office has changed, the doctor has changed, my insurance has changed, and my prescription has certainly changed. You know what hasn’t changed? The standard of 20/20.
I find that sometimes the adjustment has been miniscule, and occasionally it has been large enough that I notice a marked difference in how I see. I also find that it isn’t something I can predict myself. Even though I start each new set of glasses with a perfect reset to 20/20, my eyes change so slowly that I can be quite a bit off by the end of the year, and I have no idea. It is literally a surprise to me when I find that I’m not seeing fully anymore, so much so that sometimes I’m reluctant to purchase new glasses. I don’t want to fork out the money, these lenses are close enough, I really like my frames and it’s so hard to find new ones that are as cute/comfortable/well fitting.
Even when I’m told by a medical professional that I am not seeing at full capacity, there is a part of me perfectly content with what I’m used to. After all, it will never be as bad as how it was before I had any glasses at all.
You may have had changes in your church, your pastor, the version of the Bible you read, or even your denomination, but that does not mean Christ has changed. He is the standard. You have to go straight to Him, and Him alone, if you want to truly SEE.
There is not a statement of faith, a doctrinal stance, or a human leader who can replace the role of Christ in your life.
You must align with Him.
You must choose to see through Him.
You must stop worrying about how your frames look to others, and focus on whether your prescription is up to date in Christ.
And when He tells you it’s a little off – that you’re not seeing correctly – that He is the perfect standard and you are left of center – you MUST be willing to change, to align, to conform to Him.
Moses - a great father of the faith, a man with a legacy a mile wide, whose place in Biblical history is unquestioned. Even people whose only Biblical exposure has come via a smattering of Sunday School stories are familiar with the highlights of his journey - the ten plagues and "Let my people go!", the parting of the Red Sea, the burning bush. Moses is well known.
And despite this, or maybe because of this, I think we sometimes fail to consider, really truly consider, how remarkable his story is. Here are some thoughts I was struck with when last reading Exodus 3.
We find Moses shepherding his father-in-law's flocks in the opening verses, and I've always immediately pictured him among family. How comfortably I imagine the scene. But think, for a moment, what Moses' family history is, and how that may have shaped how he experienced his life.
He does not know his birth parents.
He has been raised among a people, heritage, and culture that are distinctly not his own, no matter how hard he may have tried to fit in.
He is intimately familiar with any number of gods and deities that would have been esteemed in Egypt among royal families at the time. He has probably worshiped some of these gods himself, as a child, or even as a man.
He has fled everything that he has known, has no real land, possessions, or money of his own, and is now taking care of his father-in-law's sheep. (I think of David, the youngest son of so many brothers, relegated to care for sheep and passed by when Samuel came searching for a man to name king. It was not a position of honor. I think of my own husband, how he might feel if our marriage resulted in him living in my parent's backyard, caring for their sheep, nothing of his own to offer or establish himself with. I think perhaps that would have been a difficult situation, no matter how wonderful your in-laws are.)
I think of the echoing Hebrew voice, jeeringly crying, "Who made you our ruler and judge"?; that stinging reminder that he was not really one of them.
I wonder what kind of internal pain Moses experienced, and I understand that our experiences can profoundly impact our experience of God.
And here is God, in verses 2-3, arriving in the midst of the burning bush. And I've always thought that was the miracle, the part that would have astounded Moses, because that would certainly have astounded me.
But now I wonder - I wonder if Moses found the power and miracle here, in these words:
"Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God."
A man without a heritage, isolated in a wilderness with nothing of his own, who has lost the history of not only his birth culture, but the culture that raised him, finally receives a personal encounter with the GOD of his people.
And that God calls him by name and ushers him into the heritage of the Hebrew people. There is no question, there is no cold shoulder, there is no fumbling through a confused tangle of who is who - there is a claim, an acceptance, a history.
And THIS is when Moses hid his face.
I think perhaps the burning bush was an attention-getter, but it was never meant to overwhelm the plot of the story the way it often has in modern re-tellings.
God's message spoke to Moses' condition, to his heart, to his need, and it set the groundwork for the more powerful work that He later accomplishes in and through Moses.
Listen today - see what God has to speak to your condition, to your heart, to your need.
He knows your history.
He knows your name.
He is there in your wilderness, making His claim.
“Lectio devina: reading, thinking, praying, and living scripture with the intention of inviting and infinite, omniscient God into your life – as it is, no gloss, no veneer. Lectio divina is more Bible basking than Bible study, as it teaches you to absorb and meditate on Scripture, to converse with God openly, and to live out what has become a part of you – His Word.”
This is, by all accounts, and old and ancient tradition, but one which I’ve only recently discovered. I’m using The Message: Solo to journey through scripture using the lectio devina precepts, and on only day four I already feel I have been so blessed with extraordinary insights.
Also, I highly recommend trying out a different version than your “norm” if you ever get the chance. I’ve read through the Bible in KJV, NKJV, NIV, and ESV translations in the past years, and although my current foray into The Message is not going to transform it into my standby study translation, there is something inspirational about reading the Word in words that don’t always feel as if you’ve read them a dozen times.
The Message: Solo offers a scripture reading, followed by a Read, Think, Pray, Live section that offers guidance as you prayerfully reread, consider, and meditate on the passage provided. It seems to be about slowing down, and experiencing (or re-experiencing) the deeper truths within passages we may feel like we already “know” very well.
Below is an example of some of musings, based on the reading of Gen 32:22-32.
Genesis 32:22-32 The Message (MSG)
22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.
24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)
As I completed the steps in the lectio divina exercise, I was completely captivated by the request for Jacob’s name. Jacob demands to be blessed, and before it is given to him, he is simply asked for his name. And he states it. Jacob. His name is Jacob.
What I fell in love with was this – Jacob had already received a great blessing in his life. His father Isaac had extended his hand and given Jacob the coveted blessing of the first born, and Jacob had already lived with this blessing for years. In exchange, however, he had to trade in his name, pretending to be someone he was not, and deceiving his father.
Does a blessing lose some of its joy when you have to pretend
you are someone else in order to receive it?
And on this long, dark night, as Jacob wrestles in the dark with someone he does not even know, he demands a blessing, and in return, he is asked his name. And unlike his first blessing, this time he knows who he is and he states his name. He is Jacob. Flawed, fearful, fighting – but no longer hiding.
And God sees him, and grants him a new name, a new identity that he received as the dawn was breaking, and his hip was hurting, and he was fatigued from the night.
Some of the blessings I’ve received have been carried them a bit like burdens; I was afraid that if people knew who I really was, they would believe that these blessings were never meant for me. I felt like maybe in the church, or at my conservative Christian college, I had pretended to be better, holier, more worthy than I really was, and the blessings I had been bestowed were based on my carefully crafted deceptions, not my reality.
I think my heart cried out for a God that would ask my name,
and when He heard it, would give me a blessing that belonged to me.
Not for what I pretended to be in the presence of His people, but for who He knew me to be in the night, before the dawn broke, while the fight was still dirty and not yet won.
Whenever Bible stories involving well known, familiar characters are told, it's hard not to think at least one of the following thoughts:
"How many times does he have to tell you before you get it?" (Think - All the disciples)
"Why would you ever do/say/think THAT?!" (Think: Abraham acts like Sara is his wife, Abraham & Hagar, David & Bathsheba, the Israelites & the golden calf, Moses and the burning bush, etc)
Basically, we want people to get with the program, make the decisions we can see they are obviously supposed to make, and do what should be done. It just seems so EASY.
I consider myself a fairly empathetic person, but for some reason that empathy is not something I've always found easy to extend to Biblical characters. I find their stories easy to skim, the conclusions foregone, the lesson clear - and I forget that they were people, living moment by moment, with no sense of their historical importance or the immortalization of their actions.
They were doing their best with the information, resources, and human natures they had to work with, and the main reason their stories can start to feel trite or pithy is because we forget that.
Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, wasn't operating in that at the time. He knew of great, bold promises whose fulfillment he was not seeing. He was stuck with a barren wife in inhospitable political climates and a changing world, the father of a people and religion that didn't even exist yet, and he was taking a step at a time. Sometimes with great faith and forethought, and other times with fear and anxiety and ego. He was a HUMAN.
Ruth, a women of noble character, whose act of sleeping at the feet of Boaz seems so simple to us today, but who was risking her honor, favor, and way of life. Do we remember she was a grieving a widow, a women who essentially saw her extended family obliterated, emigrated to a foreign land filled with foreign people, and was embracing a new faith. Nothing about her eventual marriage, wealth, and place in the lineage of Christ was known to her, much less a foregone conclusion. The path she took was not worn smooth by centuries of all-knowing readers having gone before her - it was tread slowly, one foot at a time, with a great margin for error if it had not gone well. She was a HUMAN.
Every individual in the Bible, revered or abhorred, was a HUMAN trying to make sense of their world, find their path, and make it through this crazy thing called life. They dealt with emotions, interpersonal conflict, hormones, physical ailments, family drama, insecurities, self doubt, and all the existential crisis' we feel today. They didn't have more foresight of the next moment than we do, and the Bible we have (something they were never privy to) is a chronicle of their path to seeking God in the best way they knew how. It is riddled with human missteps, errors, poor judgment, mistaken understandings - it is riddled with humanity.
As you enjoy the Profiles and Promises study during the month of July, I hope you will read with fresh eyes - instead of considering the "giants of the faith" we know Biblical characters as today, consider them to be HUMANS who are doing their best, and often failing.
To explore this humanity idea further, you could check a historical novel based on Biblical times. I've found that exploring the reality of the times and people helps me remember they they were actual people, and gives me more appreciation for the facets of life we don't always hear about in the Bible. Tessa Afshar did a great job detailing 21 Novels Set in Biblical Times ; click the link to check out some great authors who have written novels set in Biblical times, or about Biblical characters.
Just a reminder that novels set in this time period don't have the weight of being Biblical truth. There is a degree of creative licence taken to recreate the types of thoughts, emotions, conversations, and climates that may have influenced people. It is an exploration of humanity, not an extension of the Bible itself!
Contributing Editor: Hannah Hassler
As a pastor's daughter, and now as a youth pastor's wife, I see again and again the never ending flow of needs that those working in Christian churches and organizations face. As much as it can be life giving, God glorifying, and exhilarating to work in ministry, I also know it can seem fruitless, draining, and sometimes even pointless.The goal of this outreach page is to celebrate the triumphs of ministries that are pleasing to God, and to uplift and encourage the hearts of those that may be feeling tired and unseen. Take heart, my friend. God is pleased with your diligence in the small matters, and He hears your hearts cry to bring glory to his name; your work is not in vain.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58
My husband and I are new transplants to Dallas, TX and are loving an escape from the frosty midwest winters! We live in a small house with a big yard, along with our two dogs. I love walking in nature, finding new biographies and histories to read, and trying out new recipes my husband cooks up.
*The Outreach Page will be updated monthly with a newly highlighted ministry, although frequency may change with demand. If you know of a ministry or an individual involved in ministry that you would like to see highlighted, let us know (see contact)! We deeply desire to connect with those who don't have a lot of exposure, and the best way to do that is to hear from individuals.
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