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Misunderstandings

September 22, 2019

 

I tend to rehearse conversations in my head. When there’s something important I want to share, I will run the dialogue through my mind, tweaking words, adjusting phrasing. My hope is to express my thoughts and my meaning in a way to be fully understood.

 

But this has not always been my practice.

 

“So . . . we hear you’re moving to Florida!”

 

“Yes, we’re very excited.”

 

“You know, we’ve been thinking about taking a trip to Orlando sometime.”

 

“That would be amazing! We’d love to see you! Let us know when you’re heading our way.”

 

Three years of non-stop overnight guests later, we realized we should have been more careful in our words. Our intentions were honest, but the meaning of our message wasn’t clear.

 

Yes, we were delighted by visits of friends and family.

 

Yes, we were excited to meet those we didn’t know as well for a meal close to their hotel.

 

But No! Last-minute calls from people we barely knew who invited themselves (AND their children and pets) as houseguests for an unspecified amount of time was most definitely NOT what we meant.

 

Alan Greenspan, American economist and former Chair of the US Federal Reserve is famously known for saying, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

 

Ya . . . what he said.

 

The Bible is full of some really confusing things: a rapist/murderer called a “man after God’s own heart,” ordained genocide, talking donkeys, a spicy love story, and some really spectacular beasts—just to name a few of those things.

 

Rachel Held Evans once said, “I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.”

 

Should this really surprise us? I mean we’re talking about a collection of poetry and stories passed on through generations—a library of words written in a variety of cultures and languages over a span of roughly two thousand years! Context and culture must be considered; attempting to understand and apply a word or phrase written a thousand years ago can lead to confusion at best and harmful application at worst.

 

"You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means." Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride

 

I think reading and studying Scripture is an essential discipline that takes a lifetime. God’s promise of guidance from the Holy Spirit may allow us to glimpse the large picture and gain insight into important principles. However, wouldn’t it be the epitome of arrogance to believe we might fully understand what was written, or the God by whom it was inspired?

 

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

 

I am willing to risk being wrong on several things: God created out of, and for relationship. Those created by God chose their own way and broke the relationship. Intense love and grace birthed God into humanity and defeated death so we would know the extent of God’s mercy. The life of Jesus, God in human form and the Savior of humankind, made clear that the commission of God’s people is to love, serve, and bring God’s Kingdom to their world. And . . . well, I think that just about sums up the things that appear clear to me—the essential things for a life of faith.

 

We can graciously debate many things in Scripture, but we need to humbly acknowledge that even the most learned biblical scholars have a myriad of understandings of its content. I believe we’re all going to be surprised by how much we misunderstood considering we’ve tried to understand heavenly things with earthly minds. Most of all, I believe we should seek to communicate and share love—always with humility and always from a place of acceptance, grace, mercy, and hope.

 

My advice for anyone moving to a vacation capital? Measure your words, embrace spontaneity, and learn the names of the best hotels in your area.

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