Have you ever noticed that we seem to have a divergent pull with power? We are attracted to it and fear it at the same time. We like the power that provides us with heat, electricity, and everything we need to be comfortable and move from place to place, but we also fear the consequences of our involvement with it and whether or not it can be controlled by and for us, so it doesn’t harm us.
We love the power of independence and being able to make our own choices, decisions, and way in the world, but we also fear being isolated for any length of time. We would like to have the power of our own destiny but are shaky about the responsibilities it brings.
We are attracted to the power and speed of roller coasters and race cars but can fear our inability to control them. We are attracted to the power of the waves of the sea while fearing their potential to pull us under and destroy us. We are attracted to the stars but fear what may be “out there.” We are grateful for the powerful discoveries in medicine and yet feel uneasy about yielding to the possible consequences of what they offer us.
We are attracted to powerful people for what they demonstrate to us in talent, skill, courage, strength, and more yet we also fear what they may do if we get too close to them or give them power over us. We like to be close to the fire but not too close.
Power in any and all forms is something we need to reckon with every day. It happens in nearly every venue we are in and reminds us we are not in control. Storms come in type and size and we are reduced to whatever measures we have to protect ourselves from their potential destruction. We are fascinated by the lightening and in horror if it strikes too near us or anything we care about.
The power of words can threaten or woo us. They have the potential to bring comfort or wounding, pleasure or pain. We don’t need to live very long to experience all of their different types of power.
Is it possible that our relationship to scripture, the Word, the Bible, also produces some conflicting senses about power? If so, does that propel us to read, study, and experience it or does it cause us to only sample it or read only certain parts of it?
“Scripture’s task is to tell people, at the risk of their displeasure, the mystery of God and the secrets of our own hearts – to speak out and make a clean breast.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
In case we had any doubt about the power of scripture, the writer of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear:
“God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one can resist God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.”Hebrews 4:12 (MSG)
Not unlike the sun that both warms and lights our world and us while having the capacity to expose us, the scripture does all that and more. It pierces through the denial we cling to about who we may hope we are or want others to believe we are. It leaves us naked before God.
And when it does, we are faced with a choice. Will we run from it and try to hide as Adam and Eve did or will we fall on our knees and seek his grace and mercy, his love and goodness, to cover us?
That choice will also affect whether we will delve into the whole of scripture to come to know who God really is or to pick out only parts that make us feel more comfortable.
“Wanting to maintain control over our lives, to keep the initiative in our own hands, we chop the word of God into little pieces so that we can control it and maybe even put it to practical use – like warming us on a cold winter day! We reduce Scripture to something impersonal that we can use for our purposes or discard at our pleasure. We dismember its organically developed parts so that it is no longer a complete representation of God’s address to us to which we must respond.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
And when we make the Word impersonal, we miss the essence of who God is and what He desires in relationship with us. We toss aside a piece here and a piece there that results in distorting his person and use that to excuse our avoidance of Him. Perhaps it is connected to the reality that it is written instead of spoken to us. We miss the tone of his voice, the inflection of each word, and maybe hear the tone of someone else whose words did not serve us well. If we do or have done that, consider this profound observation by Eugene Peterson:
“The scriptures are a mixed blessing because the moment the words are written they are in danger of losing the living resonance of the spoken word and reduced to something that is looked at, studied, interpreted, but not heard personally. For from the moment that a word is written, it is separated from the voice that spoke it and is therefore depersonalized. Yet the very essence of “word” is personal. It is the means by which what is within one person is shared with another person. Words link spirits. Reduced to writing and left there, words no longer do what they were designed to do – create and maintain personal relationships of intelligence and love. When a word is spoken and heard, it joins speaker and hearer into a whole relationship; when a word is written and read, it is separated into grammatical fragments and has to be reconstituted by the imagination in order to accomplish its original work.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
What might change in our approach to the Word and its power if we recognized God’s purpose in language – to develop relationship with another person?
Is it possible that is what so attracts us to scenes of Lucy and Aslan in the film, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe? We see a relationship unfold between Lucy and “the Word.”
“The intent of revelation is not to inform us about God, but to involve us in God.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder