Contemplating my 'take home' from these blessed five days, surrounded by brilliant blue seas, white sand and glorious sunshine, I kept chanting, "Glorious. Glorious. You make everything glorious. Thank you, Jesus."
As a worship leader, I have noticed one of my habits is this: During a gathering, overwhelmed by the privilege, the harmony, the rhythm, the Presence, the fellowship, I stop singing any scripted lyric and simply begin to say, "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus." Not necessarily tearful, not rendered mute - just so overwhelmed, with nothing to say with any deeper meaning than "thank you."
Gratitude flowed from my mouth this morning, the crazy lady walking on the beach talking to herself.
After turning around and heading back, I found myself grateful for the real-ness of Jesus to me, the authenticity of relationship that reveals itself almost daily. Since making a decision to follow Christ publicly some 20 years ago, since jumping headfirst into church life, I've always heard this bit about a "personal relationship". Coupled with what I read in the Bible, I internalized so many things that were "for me." Real. Unquestioned. Unquestionable.
"My grace is sufficient for you."
"Go, then, and sin no more."
"I will never leave you or forsake you."
"God so loved the world..."
"In all things God works for the good of those who love him..."
"Consider it pure joy when you face trials..."
"Wives, submit to your husbands..."
(I forge ahead now without any certainty that this makes sense, but I have come to understand a subtle shift in the axis of my understanding that has, I believe, powerfully impacted my faith and the way in which I live my life. Let's see if I can articulate it.)
In the past, much of my Bible instruction took every statement as fact. Emphasis was on the inerrancy of the word, and so every statement meant just what it said. Period. To examine the context or the culture was frowned upon- it meant what it said, and it said what it meant. Memorize it. Paint it on your walls in your dining room. Buy keychains and greeting cards emblazed with the words. Believe it. Don't dig around in the external factors. Ignore the human part. Learn the words.
To some degree, there is truth and power in this. I have internalized so much of the Bible that it sometimes surprises me. I have found comfort, peace, encouragement, wisdom, strength.
In the past several years, I have been encouraged - and self-motivated - to read the Bible in context. To ask questions. To dig deeper into the discrepancies. To consider the audience, the culture, the context.
To actually say, "This doesn't seem to make sense."
At the risk of sounding like I've discovered something rare and unusual that most of the world looks at and says, "Duh!", I'll just marvel at this for a minute.
Because I think that's the key to my joy, my wonder, my gratitude, my primitive conviction that this is true, real, personal. That Jesus is, as the old hymn says, "mine".
Here's what occurs to me: The context is humanity. Our humanity. To read without a clear understanding of the culture, of the underlying lessons, of the motivations, the larger issues at play is to accept words strung together as moral imperatives, catchy sayings, legalistic commands. And, in the end, words strung together leave a hollow place in one's soul.
Without context, there's no grasp of the humanity that Jesus inhabited. The context is us.
The context is me.
Maybe this is so much uneducated, I've-been-alone-too-long drivel. But it meant something to me this morning as I walked.
"God, you make everything glorious. What does that make me?"
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchased of God
Born of his spirit, washed in his blood.