This past Sunday as we were studying The Story at church, the idea that was prominent in the lesson is "When God's big thing becomes little and our little thing becomes big." One of the questions that I posed was "What is God's big thing in your life?"
As people were sharing I had an image come to mind for my own big thing. The image was one of an armory, my role within that was to help suit people up and to make sure that they had the right weapons to fight the battle that's going on all around us. I was reminded of a time in which I let my little thing become the big thing within that call on my life.
When we first started ministry, I wasn't in the regular practice of reading the Bible everyday and spending time hanging out with God to know what I should be doing with my day, even though I was spending a lot of time with the Bible and other Christians during that time. I was teaching a great deal of Bible studies and going to a few as well, but for the most part it was an academic exercise for me. As far as my brain could tell, the subject matter could have been scripture or chemistry, both were processed in the same way.
But as the airplane safety guidelines tell us, we should put our own mask on before helping others with theirs. Not me, I thought I was good without it and I happened to be in a congregation that was into the whole academic thing as well, so life was good.
Then we moved to the antithesis of an academic congregation. They loved studying, but they preferred lessons on the holy spirit to the word studies. My teaching style hit a snag. I was so used to being a part of learning environment where we were mutually fed by academia that this different view started to make the air seem thin. I could see that they didn't like the studies that I was used to. I would search for books to help with my classes and immediately know that they wouldn't like the ones I would. I started to fade, but I persisted.
In my persistence, I believed that they should study just like I had been accustomed, that we should read before hand and all do cross references and that class should be a high priority. And the more that I saw that wasn't going to happen the angrier I got. I assumed that there was a spirit of laziness and a lack of desire to understand the scripture. Our relationship started to schism. Because the truth is, angry teachers don't teach.
God was good though, he brought me low and then he took me out of the loop. Through personal bible study, I started to step away from the academic myself, because it wasn't valued and it wasn't getting me anywhere near the closeness of God that I needed in my situation. I began to pray and read small pieces of scripture every morning, until a verse jumped out at me. I was reading the Proverbs at that time, one chapter a day, because there is enough for every day of the month. I didn't have to think about what I would be reading, I just needed to know what day it was. God started to talk to me through those little verses. And then I was challenged to put those daily verses into action. I was so confused. What did that even mean. I was angry with the person who was mentoring me at the time, wondering what in the world they were talking about. Because, my pursuits before had valued learning, depth of understanding, memorization, but never action. That was the craziest thing I had ever heard. But she was gentle with me and encouraged and instructed me during this vital head, heart, life connection.
Because of all those connections, I heard God ask me to take a year off. To just step away from everything that I had committed to and to just hang out with Him and see what happens. Just so you know, what happens is people that you weren't very close with in the first place become more distant and if you were alone you become even more so. The good thing is that you have a LOT of time to hang out with Jesus. I needed that more than I knew at the time. It was difficult to deal with the lack of interaction and the lack of self created support system. God drew near though and I developed the habits that I needed to have had all along if I were truly to be a sergeant of arms for God's arsenal. It was like I had been busted back down to private in that moment, in more ways than one. Because in that private place, God and I became buddy buddy.
All of my fancy degrees and pretty words and amazing study tactics didn't matter a lick in those moments. All that mattered was whether or not I was leaning on God. I leaned hard in those days.
This Sunday I remembered what it was like to make the little things big. I remembered that feeling of always preparing for Bible study and teaching and leading, but never studying the Bible, or learning or following. It is a disastrous time for our souls to get caught up in that kind of mess. Fortunately, God is good. God won't let us flounder for too long, especially if we are willing to listen and brave enough to ask for something more than what we currently are content with.