If you walk into my home and start checking the drawers, you will discover some that are neat and orderly while others are definitely not! A careful observation will give you clues as to what tools I find most helpful whether in the kitchen, den, or workshop. There are lots of gadgets and devices out there to help you accomplish almost any task you want to do, but some of them are more hype and trendy than helpful. (Those are the ones I need to pitch out of those cluttered drawers.) And as my husband would say, “You need the right tool for the job.”
One of my goals is to improve my photography. I want to discover something new each time I look through my lens even if I am focusing on something I have seen many times before. To that end, I took a photography workshop with a gifted professional photographer not long ago.
I learned a great deal and left the workshop encouraged and inspired. I wanted to immediately try a few things I learned and some of my efforts are the photos with this post that I took on a walk at a park a few days ago.
Of all the many things I learned at the workshop, one of the things that lingers was a list of four tools that will enhance your photography skills: silence, listening, observation, and patience.
I am aware I have much to learn to reach my goals in photography and these tools will help, but what struck me as I reflected on them this week is how powerful these tools are in every area. I realized that I used every one of them when I was a teacher and also when I worked as a clinical counselor. But more importantly, they offer the very best skill set for any of us in our relationships.
How much of a difference would it make if you utilized those with your friends when you were meeting for coffee or your spouse or your children?
How could they impact your relationship with the Word and deepen your sense of connection with the Lord?
I know from experience that I can only listen well when I silence the internal conversation running on the conveyor belt in my head that never seems to stop. Only then can I truly listen with my whole being to what someone might be saying, to what the Lord might want to say, and to what the Word is trying to say to me.
What do I observe? What do I notice about the setting, the tense of the words used, the tone and texture of the words used? That helps me engage my curiosity and when I am reading in the Word, it brings the story into three dimensions. How much are we missing by simply reading for information, not putting ourselves in the story?
I was reminded of that as I watched the funeral of Billy Graham and heard Anne Graham Lotz talk about how her mother taught her to read scripture by always putting her name in it. Then she added how in reading scripture with her dad, he included questions and thinking and dialogue. How much richer the truths of the Word became as a result of these two ways she learned from her parents, rather than simply reading it as we most often do. I think the truth found in scripture must have been woven into the fabric of Anne’s life as well as her siblings as a result of these ways of interacting with the Word.
I think recognizing the Hebrew word for truth is emeth, which is fundamentally defined as relationship, could help us. Judith Kunst describes it as “knowing truth the way you know a person. And not just static knowing, in the sense of acquaintance or identification, but the back-and-forth, unpredictable, sometimes terrifying knowing that comes part and parcel with our deepest commitments.”
If our deepest commitment is with the Lord, investing ourselves in the interaction with Him is central.
At Billy Graham’s funeral we all heard that John 14:6 will be inscribed on his tombstone. John 14:6 (ESV) reads:
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Many of us nod in affirmation and agreement with that verse. Sometimes the focus lands on the second sentence, but if we use the tools of silence, listening, observation, and patience what would we come to understand about the first things Jesus says?
What if we put ourselves in the story we are reading from Genesis to Revelation and observe? What would it really be like to walk up Mount Moriah with Abraham, to be the woman at the well, or to stand at the foot of the cross when Jesus was hanging there? What would the weather be like? What would the path feel like beneath our sandal-shod feet? What aromas would we smell?
To discover that level of relationship and truth requires silence, listening, observation, and patience.