There have been plenty of times in my life where I’ve sat perplexed and helpless.
Not knowing what to do, what to believe, or how to live.
When you’ve encountered spiritual abuse in the Church, this is one of the fear-inducing outcomes: not knowing who or what to follow.
I can recall reaching a point last year after leaving Seminary where I had nearly given up on Christianity all over again. I mean, I understood the power of its message, and the promise to guide lost sheep into a life of greater purpose and meaning, but I couldn’t see evidence of much of that actually coming to fruition among those around me claiming to follow Jesus.
It was a very sad state of affairs.
And yet, admittedly, I had seen some evidence of its power to transform the hearts and minds of human beings. I had seen it in my self.
Was this enough? Was my own transformative faith enough to go on?
I had been taught from young on not to trust myself. I was wholly depraved and prone to evil. So, who could I trust? Trusting the various incarnations of the Church proved disastrous. Sure, there was Scripture, but I was self-aware enough to realize that I could not help but filter its intended meaning through my own cultural bias.
At the apex of my spiritual despair, I ran across a passage that changed everything:
“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
Psalm 32:8 (NRSV)
It was revelatory!
God Himself was assuring me of His guidance!
I have spent so much time looking to others to guide me into God’s truth that I find I still fall back into that pattern. But I’m quick to remember that God has something infinitely better for me: His personal instruction and counsel.
In a world that is increasingly confused and bewildered, what more could we ask for than for our Maker to enter into our confusion and set us onto the path that leads us further into Him?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to fall back on this passage. It’s quite often. Sometimes daily.
It has always held true.
What a relief to no longer feel the pressure to figure it all out on my own, nor risk having to follow someone else as prone to error as I. Except for this one tiny issue:
How in the world does God instruct and counsel us?
My answer to this used to be “through His Church”. But now, I’m not so sure that holds true under scrutiny.
My back-up answer would be “Through His Word, the Holy Bible”. And yet, after raising a dyslexic daughter, it seems cruel and unusual that God would insist upon only guiding those that are effortlessly literate. Not to mention the human problem of confirmation bias and the resulting tendency towards eisegesis.
**Eisegesis is the reading of our own preconceived notions and beliefs into the text we read, skewing our interpretation of its truth. Which is opposed to the goal of exegesis which is a critical approach to the task of extracting truth from out of a sacred text. You’re welcome;)**
So, now, my answer would be that we all have to recognize how God speaks to us, and counsels us, on our own. I can tell you how He tends to speak to me, but God is not limited by my own experience of Him. The fact that He still speaks to us today, and draws each of us towards Him in Truth (if His Truth is what we indeed desire)–if you’re at all like me, that fact is a game changer.
May You open our eyes to see and our ears to hear Your voice, as You draw us ever closer to You– the source of all Wisdom and Truth.