Friends! I have so many words to share with you. I have been slowly collecting ideas to write about patience for several weeks now, but in my pursuit of patient living and placing my trust in the Lord’s timing, I have come across a much greater question: what is truth?
Truth is an umbrella term. It covers everything – for example, if I want to learn what it means to be patient, I have to have a reliable definition for what I think patience is – and that depends on what I perceive to be the truth. I think if you asked every person you knew, each of them would have a different definition of truth to give you. Is it law or is it language, is it Scripture or is it Spirit – or is it all of the above, and more?
The reason truth came to be on my mind is because of conversations I had with two friends lately. One I thanked for speaking truth into my life, one encouraged me with the comment that I speak truth over myself. Both conversations challenged me to not take this word lightly, and to ask what I know of truth, and how much of truth can even be known.
I like action. I like action films, I like exciting books, I like driving with the music up loud, I love concerts, I like going places and doing things, I love telling and hearing stories of things that have been done. As I was discussing the nature of patience with my dad the other day, I kept asking him how instead of what – how it looked in action instead of what it sounded like in words. As I read books, listen to sermons, or engage in discussions about following Jesus, I am unconsciously yet constantly waiting for the “how-to” section, the part where I get to stop reading and start doing.
That’s where things get tricky – I like action, but I also like instruction. Sometimes the two go hand in hand neatly, and sometimes they do not. One of my favorite parts of creating this blog has been having ability to write about whatever I choose. I am so glad for the many kind responses to these posts, and it is incredibly exciting that God uses my words to encourage and build up others. At the end of the day, however, I don’t write with the goal of speaking to others in mind, I write for me. This is a time when instruction and action don’t go hand in hand – no one has taught me how to write a proper blog post, or given me a list of safe topics to explore, or ways to build and connect with an audience. I just write when I have something to say, and there is a beautiful kind of freedom in the doing.
This summer, I have been reading a book by Jen Wilkin called Women of the World with some dear girlfriends. It focuses on Biblical literacy, and how we as women can delve deeper into the Bible with our hearts and minds. Jen lists 5 P’s – purpose, perspective, patience, process & prayer – to Bible study. I love this book because it is so structured, and in each chapter, after explaining the idea of each point with words, it always gives me a how to put the point into action as well. Instruction and action fit together seamlessly in her writing, and I’ve found having a plan to follow, one I understand the logic and heart behind, is freeing in its own way.
Another book I have been reading with my roommate Kathryn is called Love Does, by Bob Goff. Love Does is more of a collection of stories, as the title suggests, about living a life of love, and action, and ultimately how both of these things are driven by faith. I have enjoyed every story and Bob’s flair for writing immensely, and while each chapter demonstrated a different call to action, none yet had given me a clear idea of how to put that into practice in my own life. Until this week, when we read a chapter called “Friends, Welcome Home.”
In this chapter, Bob tells the story of how he and some buddies sailed from LA to Hawaii. This story involves two navigators: Bob, and a friend who was a navigator in the US Navy. The friend, when they began planning for their expedition, had prepared all of his books and materials and equipment that would tell them where they were and where they needed to be while at sea. It sounds like this guy was ready to do a lot of math, and a lot of work. Coming into the job, he had a lot of knowledge. Extending the illustration to the work of navigating life, Bob says this, of what he used to think following God looked like –
“I thought if I constantly measured the distance between me and God, I’d get closer to him. Early on, the religious people I knew explained to me all kinds of nuances for doing this sort of spiritual math. They suggested that I say certain things in my prayers, have quiet times, go to Bible studies, and memorize Bible verses. They said I needed to know how to explain to someone that God could be a person and a spirit at the same time. They urged me to know how God was going to come back someday but that some people would be here and other people would go missing because it would be a time of great tribulation. They said that for me to know God, there was a whole pile of things I’d need to know first.“
Have you ever felt like this? I have.
At the last minute, the friend couldn’t come, so Bob became the navigator. Bob learned a concept during this process called a “dead reckoning,” which he describes as taking a bearing off a couple of fixed points and drawing a line from them to you to determine where you are at and where you are going. It’s a simple concept – I’m not a science or mathematically minded person, and even I understand it – but that doesn’t diminish its usefulness. Bob then says this of how he lives life today –
When I don’t know the answer to where I am or what God wants me to be doing, which is often, I try to get a bearing on at least a couple of fixed points that I can trust. One is Jesus. I know it sounds like a canned Sunday school answer, and I tend not to like those, but it’s true. I take a bearing off what I know about Jesus. But it’s a Jesus who is encumbered by religion, denomination, and cultural overlays. I look at what He had to say about where I am and then I draw a line from Jesus to me.
The other fixed point I use is a group of people I feel God has dropped into my life, kind of like a cabinet. These people have their particular areas of wisdom and experience, and I use them to bounce ideas off of and get their input. The people on my cabinet help me do some dead reckoning in my life because I take a bearing on their counsel as another fixed point in my life and draw a line from them to me.
From these points, dead reckoning is actually pretty easy. Where all of these lines cross is where God probably wants me to be.
Isn’t this the answer we’ve always been looking for? When I first read these few pages, I was thrilled – finally, here are some sound and specific instructions for action! This is a how-to for navigating life AND following Jesus. Then I read it again, and I saw something a little bit different. I think that the fixed points in our lives are our definitions of truth.
When I began college, I joined a ministry called Navigators. Navs was the only ministry I ever visited and the only one I’ve been a part of the past two years. When people ask what drew me there, I tell them about the Navs discipleship program, eTraining. eTraining is a six-week program that, at its simplest, teaches you how to follow Christ on a college campus. One step deeper, eTraining teaches something called the Wheel.
For all you visual people of the world!
The Wheel, I think, is the best representation of my fixed points. At the center is Christ. With Christ at the center of my life, my relationships, my efforts, my energies – everything is permeated by the one who not only speaks truth, but is called the Truth (John 14:6).
Vertically, from God to me and back, there is prayer and the Word. These are two of my fixed points. When I pray, I usually ask a lot of questions. The Lord is so sweet in answering those in His time, but frequently, by the time I have finished writing or speaking, I already know the answer. This is truth to me. Through my training in Navs especially, my time in the Word has become a critical part of my life. In Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin teaches that the Big Story of the Bible is the reign and rule of God, and that “there is no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God.” For that reason, studying the Bible – working towards Biblical literacy – and letting these words guide my life – is truth to me.
Horizontally on the Wheel, my outward reach towards the world around us, is fellowship and witnessing. These are two more of my fixed points. The first one is easy to expound on – nothing lifts my spirits like community with other believers. Like Bob says, this includes many of the people on my cabinet. They are people God has given me to point me back to Him, and these relationships constantly teach me more about His creation and character. They speak truth to me. Witnessing is a little different. I have always had a large amount of friends who aren’t followers of Christ. My relationships with them are just as precious. Oftentimes, when I turn to these friends for counsel, I am at my most broken and vulnerable, and it is there that I hope and pray and believe that Christ’s love is most clearly evident in my life, and that is a beautiful thing to be able to share. And no matter what differences lie between us, these friends still care for me deeply and encourage me with words of their own. These friendships speak truth to me, too.
So I have four fixed points: Christ at the center, prayer, the Word, and people. Not only are these the points I use to get my bearings, but they are constants. I’ve found that wherever my life is at, these are the four things I can rely on that will not change. Isn’t it wonderful to think that in a continually shifting, broken world, God has given us points that do not change?
Our human understanding is limited. I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to fully define the term truth, but I do believe that God has given us a way to test and try the world around us, to determine not the what in words, but the how in action, that He speaks truth into our lives. I love it that these four points are not only my instructions, but my call to action.
Delving into my own definition of truth has taught me that everything hinges on Jen’s statement – that without knowing God, we can’t know ourselves. So tonight, this is my prayer.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.