Friday, February 3, 2012

The Two Stories

We had Bible study last Wednesday. Most Wednesdays from September to June, for the last 15 1/2 years, I've led Bible study. Some weeks there are only a handful. Other weeks, like last week, a dozen or 14 turn up.

For 15 years, I've been working through whole books of the Bible with those who come to Bible study, reading verse by verse, asking questions, encouraging discussion.

At times I wonder if it's the best use of my time. But whenever I think it's time to do something different, something happens like what happened last Wednesday.

We were looking at one of the truly hard sayings in the Bible, in Mark chapter 8, where Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer and die, and then says, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."

"Have you ever had an experience," I asked, "where you tried to hold onto something and ended up losing it, and only got it when you were willing to let go of it?" Blank looks. Not because people weren't thinking, but because the paradox of this passage is truly baffling. Losing what you hold onto, and gaining what you give up -- who can make sense of that?

"Isn't it true, though," I said, "that when you jealously grasp the things you think are important, your life is diminished, whereas if you are willing to let go, you receive more than you expected?" And I had to admit that even I was struggling to grasp how to apply this to real life.

"Jesus, of course, offered himself as a model for what he was saying. Let's look at Philippians 5, an ancient Christian hymn, that says that Jesus did not count equality with God a possession to be held onto for his own sake, but emptied himself and became a servant. And because of that, God exalted him to the highest place. Jesus' self-emptying love is what it's all about."

Then I could see awareness forming and thoughts coming together. One woman talked about how her father lost everything in the war, but chose not to be embittered, but to begin life again.

One person talked about the change of outlook that comes with a cancer diagnosis -- how you learn to appreciate things more deeply when you have faced the real possibility of losing everything.

Someone else spoke about the sudden and tragic death of a family member, and the regret at things that were never said; but that she has resolved to say them to others rather than simply living with the guilt.

"You can't be a parent without knowing what this is all about," said another. "You realize that you have to let your children go, or you risk losing them."

Each of these comments was a condensed personal story. Behind the words was a lived narrative.

When we come to Christian faith, the story of our life is brought within the orbit of a greater story -- the story of a God who fashioned the world in which we live and who personally entered into this world in Jesus. It's the intersection of these two narratives -- God's and ours -- that shapes our lives as Christians.

And I was just really really humbled and moved to witness the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of this group of people, and creating awareness of God's ways. It was a beautiful and moving experience.

1 comment:

  1. There is great power in the shared experience of life!

    Thank you for sharing this story!