Are you following along with our Lent readings? Be sure to read and pray through this week’s daily reflection, Signs of Life.
“You just had to be there.”
You’ve gotten to that point in the story. You know, the point where you can’t go any further. Even though you’ve seen or heard or lived something amazing, your best efforts to describe the experience fall short. And chances are, you’ve uttered those words.
Some things just cannot be explained through words; they must be experienced to understand.
It seems like we spend so much of our Christian searching for clear understanding. We attend Sunday morning Bible classes. Listen to hours of sermons. Consume Christian books and podcasts. We spend time in personal Bible study. All of this effort hoping that if we can just see clearly, then we will be able to obey.
Yet the Christian life is not lived out between the pages of a book or within the confining walls of a church building. In my experience right understanding does not always lead to righteous living.
Just consider how many truths of the Christian faith are found in paradox — humility leads to exaltation, strength is made evident in weakness, freedom is found in serving others, life is gained through dying.
Can these types of truth really be understood through study? If I can intellectually assent to their premise, will my life be changed?
Or are the essential truths of God only truly understood through firsthand experience?
The Anabaptist tradition has an interesting way of looking at scripture called the “hermeneutics of obedience”. They believe that while the Bible holds authority in the church, that there are parts of scripture that are difficult to understand. And although there have always been brilliant biblical scholars, even their best efforts to fully explain these concepts fall short.
Therefore, their idea is this: You can never really see a truth in scripture unless you are willing to obey it. Your head cannot go somewhere your heart is not willing to go. So it is not your capacity to see that helps your ability to obey; it is your willingness to obey that allows you to see the truth.
This to me is at the heart of the Lenten season. The self-sacrifice and dedication of Lent reminds me to wake up every day choosing to be more like Christ. And in that choice to obey, my eyes are opened up to the reality of God around me.
How else can I understand the deep truth of loving my enemies unless I first attempt to really love them? How else can I see that in giving of myself, I gain more? I cannot understand how God could work through my weakness unless I first choose to expose my scars.
Because when it comes to the truth of God, obeying is seeing.
So my prayer for us today — no matter if you are an active participant in Lent or not — is that we all may have the boldness to obey. And that through these choices to follow Christ, that our eyes will be opened more fully to the truth of God in our lives. That in obeying, we may finally be able to see.