Beyond Sound Bites
"Well," my couples' small group leader said as she smiled and leaned forward, "now let's go around the circle and share what God taught us over the last week."
Inwardly, I groaned. Here we go again.
As the discussion moved from person to person, I realized I literally had no idea what to say when my turn came. Searching for something that would sound appropriately "spiritual," I mentally scrolled through the events of my week. In the last seven days, I'd prepared meals for my family and others, walked our dog, completed my Bible study homework, phoned friends and loved ones and church family members. I'd done laundry. Grocery shopped. E-mailed and surfed, watched Dancing With the Stars, and played Word Twist on Facebook. Visited someone in the hospital. Ran errands. Ate lunch with a friend. And survived yet another week of the cavalcade of plumbers and carpenters who arrived early in the morning and left late in the afternoon for our major bathroom remodel. All pretty mundane stuff.
My heart sank. I had nothing: no earthshaking, extraordinary insights I could package as directives from God. My palms started to sweat.
So when my turn came, I defaulted to spouting some Christianese about God "showing up" to help me prioritize, how he allowed me to "reach out and minister" to others. While what I said was true, I felt like a spiritual dud.
The truth is I hate having to "share." It's not that I don't believe God's present in my daily life—guiding, loving, comforting, convicting. It's just I don't always sense him at work as I go about mine. The occasions in which I've "heard" God's voice reveal deep insights or impart grand revelations have been very few and far between. My spiritual journey just doesn't seem to lend itself to cool sound bites.
I suspect I'm not the only one who's occasionally felt that weird kind of peer pressure to manufacture something spiritual enough to "share." And who somehow feels less spiritual when the mind draws a blank.
However, the older I get, the more impatient I'm becoming with Christianity that feels like an exercise in filling in the spiritual blanks with expected "right" answers. My experiences with my faith (and even my questions about it) aren't easily condensed into quickie communications. For instance, how can I explain the praise that wells up in my spirit when I walk my dog on a beautiful autumn afternoon filled with bright blue skies and fields of burnished sumac and milkweed and goldenrod? Or how the changing of seasons, with its fits and starts, mirrors my own wrestlings with the changing seasons in my life? Or how visiting someone in the hospital makes me feel God's pleasure in a way few others things have?
Lately I've been studying Moses and the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. I can hardly imagine waiting 400 years—10 generations—for God to act. I'm sure if the Hebrew slaves were asked how God was working in their lives, they'd have been hard pressed to answer anything remotely positive. Or Moses, who was sidelined 40 years in Midian before God enlisted him for the risky work of delivering a nation. I suspect Moses wouldn't have easily explained his spiritual transformation in sound bites. Besides, I'm convinced God's work is often invisible, silent, behind the scenes, even subversive in the everyday lives of everyday people like me. So maybe it's really OK not to have anything to "share"!
I'm starting to resist the temptation to manipulate the ways God speaks to me for others' approval. Because their approval ultimately doesn't really matter; God's approval does. So the next time I'm asked to share what God's doing in my life. I'll still wince a bit at the request. But hopefully I'll be bold enough to say, "Nothing I can see right now—but I trust he's at work just the same."
Have you ever felt pressured to sound more spiritual than you feel? Do you feel comfortable sharing what God's doing (or seemingly not doing) in your life?
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Beyond Sound Bites
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