Friday, August 25, 2006

The Way God Gets Through To Me

Today I determined that the way I read books is also the way God teaches me new lessons. For one thing, it goes in cycles. For another, well, let me describe the way I read books.

First, in a frenzy of picking up many recommendations from the library or used bookstore, or long-awaited re-reads off my shelf, I open the front cover of a book that looks intriguing, or dearly familiar, and begin to read. This is the stage of whetting the appetite. Sometimes the book is not quite as urgently good as it seemed. For others I can only put it down because I have to. And when I do that, my attention deficit disordered eyes drift to another enchanting title, and I pick that one up.

The second stage is where I am sitting in the middle of about half a dozen books, usually paused at some less exciting page, and rather dreading the actual work of wading through the necessary plot information that is not stimulating. Ok, I don’t only read fiction. For non-fiction books the boring parts are the hard to understand (or to accept) chapters. Inevitably this status initiates a sub-cycle of returning to step one for a more interesting read.

Thirdly I find that the books begin overflowing the precarious stack beside my bed, the bag I take to work, and other available spaces. In addition, a few other tantalizing books taunt me from their unread, unbookmarked states. These I cannot begin. The guilt phase has set in. I am obligated to make room for new reads.

Step four. In a rush of intense and diligent reading, I finish three books in a few days. These days I am usually excited, but not very attentive of things in the present. My mind is steeped in cultures and facts and names and what-will-happen-next’s.

Finally I am finished with several books. But now I am exhausted from reading so much. My eyes blur to look at anything, yes, even the computer screen. Still, not ready to release the high of plot climaxes and non-fiction conclusions, I meditate on the texts I just read. What do they mean? How is that relevant to my life? What if something had been done a little differently? Are they sure they got their facts straight?

This stage lasts indefinitely: until I have come to a satisfactory conclusion and solid grasp of what I read. Then, out of the abundance of my thoughts, my fingers type. I put the ideas on paper lest I lose them.

Transfer all that to how God works in my life. One issue, then another question, and another verse come to my attention, grasp it, and are only replaced by the need to continue with life – or another idea.

Stuck in the middle of many half-thought out concepts, I eventually begin to study one at a time. I focus. I talk about them with other people whom I hope can add insight to my research.

Finally some one conversation, or incident brings all these ideas together and to a conclusion at the same time. I stand in awe that God has prepared me to cope with these things by so many little details for so long. Slammed by the impact of so many thrilling revelations, I reel. Yes. My little mind swirls with single-word summaries of the final products.

As the days proceed, I eventually sort all the one-word brainstorming into coherent paragraphs of “lessons I learned.” Here is where it gets exciting.

Once all that happens, the process, unlike reading a book, doesn’t just return to Go and keep hopping along in circles again. When God teaches you, His aim is growth. And growth exhibits action. Many time these little lessons come out as challenges to step out in an area of uncharted obedience. Other times they are answers to prayers I prayed long before. They change me. They change how I live. They result in resolutions.

If you have ever made a resolution, and if you are human, you probably have experienced the next step, just like me. You fall from that inspired ideal and find yourself a failure. Look on the bright side, though. You can start again. And you didn’t fall all the way back to where you were before, did you? I mean, you didn’t learn all about eating nutritionally for your diet and then forget to eat carrots just because one morning you had chocolate pudding for breakfast.

So God accomplishes His way. It takes a while. It takes a cycle. That is the way He chooses to work in me. I don’t know why. If I in my limited wisdom were in charge, I would use the magic wand and change people right away. If there is a problem, I go crazy if it is not immediately fixable.

Yet God seems to have a different timetable. That’s not an original idea, I know. Peter wrote about it, himself quoting from a centuries-old source. Perhaps the instruction of God to Samuel should be applied to our view of time as well.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

So trust the eyes of God.

To God be all glory.

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