40 per cent that’s practical and real, a direct line between what God says and what Emma needs to do. 40 per cent that’s appropriate to daily life; the grocery shop and feeding the cats. 40 per cent that works in 21st century Eastbourne, not 1st century Palestine. 40 per cent that’s for a justgettingthrough believer, not a solid-gold saint.
What makes up the 60?
– things I just don’t get. Dusty regulations and laws that don’t fit with my thinking. Genealogies and instructions and temple furnishings and that snakes and ladders section in the middle: good-king-bad-king-good-king-bad-king-(but-mainly-bad-bad-bad-king).
– things I do get, but seem too hard. Losing your life to find it. Loving those who hurt you. Valuing what can’t be seen and despising what the world holds dear. Death to the things I want. The things I’ve built my identity on – but He says I don’t need. If I don’t need them, why do I want them so much? It’s too hard. It’s too much.
– things I get that seem too easy. Upside-down parables. Full wages for those who pitch up at the last moment. Ridiculous, extravagant grace. A God who uses hopeless situations and picks the people I’d leave for dust. A God who redeems the things I’d kill to destroy. Charity. Mercy. Bloody grace.
And then – story after story without a pithy moral in sight. Just stuff happening. Why is it there? As a model? To impress? To offend? But when I expect an explanation, the Bible ignores me and starts a new one.
I’m not the best at following plotlines – either on TV or in print. This drives Glen mad. When watching DVDs I’ll supply a running commentary: “Who’s that? Why is she talking to him? What year is this? Why is he whispering? Didn’t they die? Wait – what just happened?” “Please, – can we just look up the plot line on Wikipedia, instead of trying to keep up?”
Mostly he says “Ssssssh. We’re watching, not googling. And the mystery is the point!”
So, we stick with it. I quieten down – and eventually, things fall into place. There’s something more important that getting all the plot points: a narrative I’m meant to inhabit. And watching and wondering is half the story.
Maybe this is what the Bible is like. Not a wikipedia page, full of bullet points and footnotes. A story, unfolding in surprising ways, with twists and turns that don’t always make sense. The point is not in pressing pause until we’ve worked it all out. It’s letting the story happen to us – whether we understand it or not. And this is how it changes us. Not by grasping for the story, but letting the story grasp us.