Before my eyes opened this morning someone was on my heart, the weight of need fully present even before my brain was awake enough to put words to it, as if it had been sitting there all night waiting. Except that it hadn’t, and there was nothing I could do to make a difference in this person’s life except direct the burden of my heart, and the half-formed words toward the God who does not stop listening. For this I know, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He … who watches over you will not slumber….” (Psalm 121:2-3) God’s attention on His loved ones never wavers, and His concern for them never falters, so I can give Him the cares of my heart in confidence that He knows exactly what to do about it. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6)
Theology applies to everyday life in surprisingly small ways, in places you would never expect such a lofty word to connect. But we’ve been seeing how theology is just a matter of getting to know God, and the more I get to know Him and understand His Plan working out in the world, the more I see how relevant and practical His truths are. It feels like turning back the clock to the simple basics of childhood, the first declaration of truth that I learned to sing and believe: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Except that life is so much more complicated now that sometimes it surprises me when the Truth remains so straightforward. Maybe that’s one reason why it can get hard to apply theology to our everyday circumstances; it is hard to believe that the Bible means just what it says and speaks so clearly to how we think and feel. When I look out my kitchen window at God’s creation, and see the complexity of its working– every detail fully attended to, and just as much care put into the ant as into the largest of creatures– I can see that each part serves Him by doing what He created it to do. If I accept that as true and turn its lens toward my home, it lends dignity to the every-morning act of making coffee and wiping off counter-tops, the daily tedium of cleaning and serving a household, for such working is neither small nor insignificant in His eyes, and I can do it well, as loving service to the King who arranged it so. I can find joy in creating a beautiful, welcoming sanctuary for my family, a place where we can be ourselves and be nourished by love and laughter. The Bible tells me it is a worthwhile aim that gives glory to God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Already before lunch there is an appointment forgotten and a need for gracious apologies, a plan misunderstood and the call for gentle and clear communication, and several questions for guidance. But Older Brother James is saying “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) I can take that instruction quite seriously and in the moment I can ask for clear thinking and for wisdom in how to answer. I can feel confident that the Holy Spirit lives with me, guides my responses, and is glad I asked…instead of barreling through it all, on my own.
In all the ups and downs of my day, there is real Truth that speaks to real life about sorrow, about loneliness, about fear, about being able to forgive, about being loved and accepted, about the things that go wrong in the world, about the things I long for, about how to love difficult people, and how to love God.
I’m beginning to see why the Church-planter Paul told his readers, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…. (Colossians 3:16), because we need to be saturated in this Truth before it can come out our pores naturally, as we live and move and breathe. We need to speak Truth fluently in order to help each other run the race. And the sobering realization follows quickly, that sometimes it is not so much a matter of ignorance as it is of careless resistance…that I know what the Bible says about this matter but I would rather do something different, prefer to see it more as a suggestion than anything else. But there is Paul again, acknowledging the need for honesty and commitment, saying, “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)
In many ways this learning to put into practice what we know to be true is a getting back to the simple basics of simple faith– stripping off the religious ideas, the self-deception, the church customs we have learned through the years, and accepting what God says– like a child again. There is so much that is still mystery… but maybe we can understand enough simply to run today, and that’s all we need to know for now.
“Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.” (E. Paul Hovey)
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Philippians 3:14-16)