We’ve talked about my love for stories — specifically biographies and memoirs. About how one of the things that helps me to survive the hard parts of life is knowing that other people have survived the hard parts of theirs. It gives me hope.
But there’s also more than a story…
I’m currently more than 400 pages into the 600-ish page epic biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. I know how this story ends. (In case you don’t, spoiler alert – he was executed by the Nazis in 1945.) Yet still, I am captivated by the story and am frustrated each time I have to put the book down. Even now as I write to you, I’m champing at the bit to get back to it! And as I read, some of my thoughts include how I’d love to sit and have discussion with him about this or that. How I would like to have heard him preach. Or sat and listened to some of the heated theological conversations he had with his friends and contemporaries. But no matter how carefully I read this book — no matter how many other books I read — reading the story is not the same as having known the man.
A more contemporary example…
Some of you have never met me, yet you read my writings regularly. How well do you know me? Do you know how I take my coffee? Or whether I prefer my towels to be folded into halves, tris, or quarters? Or how to best persuade me when I’m stubborn? Or lift my spirits when I’m down? You don’t. (That’s not an accusation. Just an observation.)
In this week’s chapter of Christa Black Gifford’s Heart Made Whole, she goes back and emphasizes a topic she’s covered before:
“If you’ve experienced life to be unsafe, then you need a greater experience with the God who is Protector. If you’ve encountered a life of rejection, then you need a greater encounter with the God who is Unconditional Love,” (Gifford, 173).
Reading about our loving, protecting, healing God is a very powerful thing. But there’s a difference between reading about Him and getting to know Him. Reading about Him can be part of getting to know Him, but just like my reading about Bonhoeffer, it doesn’t do the whole job. It’s not the same thing as experiencing Him and getting to know Him.
How would I get to know Bonhoeffer? Okay, kind of a silly question. Let’s try a different example. How would you get to know me? You would spend time with me. Get to know my voice — my very charming Southern accent. You would watch how I order my coffee and perhaps ask me how I prefer my towels folded — if that’s the kind of thing you want to know about me. And by spending time with me, you would learn how best to persuade and encourage me. And I would learn things about you in return. That’s how relationships function…
And by spending time with God, we come to know Him. To recognize His voice. To know how to most effectively interact with Him. And when we really know Him, we understand that we are safe and we are loved. It just takes time — spent together.
Let’s think about that for a bit.
Now, if anybody needs me, I’ll be spending some time with Bonhoeffer. And Jesus.
This post is part of a weekly book discussion on Christa Black Gifford’s book, “Heart Made Whole.” You do NOT have to read the book to stick around and chat. However, if you’ve written a response to this week’s chapter, you can go post a link at the widget at my co-facilitator Jason’s place.