I think of my life in terms of phases. Consider, for instance, the school phase. High school wasn’t that hard, right? Grade school had its challenges, sure. Junior high wasn’t all that easy. But high school? What’s so hard about facing the pressures of conformity, the demands of planning the first steps of the rest of your life, new relationships, cliquey social groups, fresh challenges…you see my point?
During high school though, everything changed. Decisions about my future and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life came down to me. It seems unfair to hand a 14 year old a selection of courses and ask them what they want to do with the rest of their life.
I wish I could face those decisions with the spiritual insight and life experience I now carry. In those junior high years, I had little life experience to leverage for confidence, and zero spiritual experience (I wasn’t a Christian until half way through senior year). An understanding of God’s grace, trusting in His control over my life might have helped me, or, at the very least, provided some comfort. The responsibility required of teenagers today, or pre-teens for that matter, is unjust. Despite the fact I was without any spiritual strength through the majority of high school, the faith and passion God grew in me after that time would see me through my senior year, the following summer and the next four years at University.
In those years I would rely heavily on my Bible (and my girlfriend, now my wife) to face the challenges in maturity and major life decisions that fly at you. In all my readings to get me through these principle-challenging, identity-affirming years, I never appreciated the Psalms; one of the greatest sources of strength, comfort and guidance available to us. The poetry, imagery and language flew over my head. That is, I never appreciated them until now. Only now, several phases and five years removed from University and working in the ‘real-world’ can I relate to the Psalms. I wonder why? Why could I understand so many Scriptures, have them transform and impact me, yet not be touched by others?
Maybe it’s a question of maturity? Scratch that. Maybe it’s a question of experience?
I could never empathize with the burdens expressed so intensely by David, the “servant of the Lord,” the “man after God’s own heart.” But now that I’m working, and married, and have a son, and serve on a church Board, and carry responsibility – they begin to offer so much.
I realize now that the Psalms never resonated with me because at the time I hadn’t gained enough insight to truly appreciate them and be touched by them. Only now, following years of high school, undergrad, summer jobs, full time jobs, fatherhood and all around life experience can I have the perspective needed to see what God has laid out in these pages. They’ve always been there, only I haven’t been able to see them. Realize though, this is my subjective experience. For me, the Psalms never resonated. For you, perhaps, it was only the Psalms that resonated, which is great! Different passages will speak to us in different ways at different times. As we change, new truths entirely relevant to our situation are revealed to us in God’s Word.
It took me some 10 years of living out my faith before I was moved, or was able to be moved, by the Psalms. 10 years of life experience that was necessary before I could face my current challenges and therefore gain strength from the words God has placed in front of me. I take comfort in remembering all that David endured before he was capable of expressing what’s recorded in the Psalms.
With experience and responsibility, you gain perspective, you grow. This allows us greater insight into the Words that God has breathed through other sinful, mortal, and distracted humans like us, thousands of years before. You may not understand the passage immediately in front of you, but might I add one critical word on the end of that sentence? …”yet.”
You do not understand the passage in front of you, yet.
There is always truth in God’s Word, but we may not be able to truly appreciate what we’re reading at the moment we’re reading it. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You’re reading a passage and you know that the words carry importance, you know that they are speaking truth about God, and yet it isn’t striking you the way you feel that it should. This was me with the Psalms!
To that, I would borrow a phrase from David, “take heart!” Do not expect to be floored by every single passage of Scripture. I mean to say that every passage has the capability to transform, but do not look to every single passage to transform your life in that moment otherwise you will grow disheartened and frustrated.
Instead of being let down, there is an immensely greater opportunity before you and it’s essential that you find it. There is a critical point where God’s intended meaning in a passage coincides with your experience (in the past, and in the present). In that moment, a fascinating thing will start to happen…it’s called “change.”
“Change” is understanding. You will encounter God and you will hear what He is saying to you. The words will come alive, as the Psalms did for me. When you understand God’s truth compared against your current situation and realize the short-fall, change is the inevitable outcome.
My plea to you is to not let these moments pass you by! God has prepared you through all your experiences not for one large moment, but so that you can encounter Him in hundreds of moments every month, every week, or every day. Each of these is an opportunity for transformation that is entirely accessible if you are able to see it. Make your experiences worth the effort and meet God where He is reaching out to meet you, in His pages.