The Process

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When I was a kid, my father bought a set of Collier encyclopedias complete with a two-volume dictionary. The books were dark green, and the set took up the entire bottom shelf of one of our bookcases. Before the encyclopedias I would ask my dad whatever off the wall question I had—What color is mercury? How does light work? Was Napoleon really short? After we got the encyclopedias, the answer was always the same: go look it up. It got to the point that I would ask a question and my father would simply point in the direction of the bookcase and then, I just skipped the asking part and went to the bookcase. Reading these books, I learned to trust the word of the editors of Collier Encyclopedias and their writers for my information.

When I started my faith journey, my Sunday school teacher told me I only needed one book: the bible. Of course, the church was an independent, fundamentalist, King James Only kind of church, so that was the official answer from all the ministers and teachers. Later, I learned they actually had certain teachers whose books they studied and certain reference books they trusted so the truth was a bit more nuanced. They weren’t just using the bible; they were using books that reinforced their view of the bible and listened to preachers who did the same. 

As I moved along in my journey, every leader and teacher I have had since did the same. It was always the bible and teachers and certain books and certain lenses to view those things through. As a Methodist, I use the lenses of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (thought truthfully, they are just various forms of experience) but that is tempered by the teachers I have had and writers I have read. Even now, when I try to study the bible, I find myself thinking:

  • When was the part I’m reading written? Who was the author?
  • What was the cultural circumstance of the writing?
  • Does the translation change the meaning? Is it Greek? Hebrew? Aramaic? How would I translate it?
  • What have my teachers said about it through the years? Who agrees? Who disagrees?

All these thoughts fly through my head every time I hear something from the bible. I have heard other people say similar things. They think about what certain Sunday school teachers, preachers, relatives and other trusted people have said. Some offer better answers than others but then that’s my assessment based on my experience and my circumstances. Like the encyclopedias I had as a child, we all have those places we go to for knowledge and understanding. 

Regardless of you process, good discipleship is going back to those places with an open heart and mind. It is being aware of the Holy Spirit and listening, responding to the leadings and prompts the Spirit offers. It is continually taking the next step, and the next, and the next, so we are never standing still in our faith but always learning and growing. Your journey isn’t my journey, but we are all trying to get to the same place: healing and wholeness in God. Whatever steps your journey takes, they should be steps that move you toward those goals. 

So, step on and keep stepping.