Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our Stories and Knowing God

As we look through the stories of our lives we discover lessons in our experiences. The climactic and notable elements of our lives differ from person to person. Our life stories give illustrative examples, and lessons which come from our own base of knowledge and passions. Could it be that these same stories also give us examples which tell part of a greater story - the story of God? and that these stories individually illustrate small elements of the greater knowledge and passion of God?

Heilsgeschichte, or salvation history was a popular term of theological reference (particularly in the 50's) to the story of God as it is discovered in the history within scripture, but also in what has been referred to as HIStory: a traveling narrative of human history filled with the illustrations of the character of God and the working of His redemption.

If human history is filled with illustrations of God's character, then our individual stories, which make up those small elements of the greater human story may hold snapshots of HIStory. If this is true then we all have lessons about God etched into our own life stories.

Moses' story is perhaps a good place to start this pursuit of finding a micro heilsgeschichte. The key components of his story are peppered throughout his life from borth to death.

• Moses was born at a time when the Hebrew children were being slain by Pharaoh, yet he survived by his parents cunning and miracle.
• As a young man he was raised in the house of Pharaoh though he was a Jew.
• He later tried to help his people, the Jews. He killed an Egyptian and had to flee Egypt because of this.
• He spent years herding sheep, and later married the daughter of his boss.
• God met Moses in a burning bush which was not consumed, and called him to return to Egypt and deliver his people the Jews from the slavery of Pharaoh.
• He did as asked and God performed many miracles. The children of Israel were delivered by God through the leadership of Moses, and the stories of these miracles became the centerpiece of salvation history for the Jewish people.
• He suffered with a stubborn and disobedience people for over 40 years in the wilderness, and in the end did not enter the promised land himself.

This brief outline of key components of Moses' life story illustrates the variety of things which may make up our own stories, through it certainly does not exhaust the variety. From birth to death our own stories have elements, which may tell a small piece of HIStory just as Moses' life does.

Some of the things which may be influential elements include:

how and where we are born
how we are raised
our health, our sicknesses, our injuries
our intellectual capacity and learning
our passions and pursuits
our occupations, our service and our hobbies
moments of fortune or calamity
the words we speak, whether in a moment or repeatedly
actions of great bravery or cowardice
sins and bad habits
personal interactions with God
the means of our death

There is more we could consider, but these are some beginning points to write out our own story in search of finding God in our own history.

Of course, just like reading the Bible can be difficult reading our life story can be hard as well. Just as the Bible can be twisted to say what we want it to say our life stories can be twisted by our poor perspective to teach us lessons we were never meant to learn. We are too often spiritually myopic - too close to see truth.

This is no new thought. There are people who have taught this, and you can pursue it further. Keri Wyatt Kent writes about this, and teaches to hear God in our own life stories. Variations of this may be found in Psychology, and hopefully I will remember the rather complex text of the Fuller Theological Seminary professor who wrote a book about discovering God's Will bu charting your personal history, which I read about 20 years ago.


cern said...

Reading your life story is a challenge. Trying to be objective about something as subjective as ourselves is a MAJOR challenge. Even when we do our utmost to look at our lives objectively, there is still that nagging question in the back of the mind... 'how can I be sure I'm not interpreting things in a positive way? How can I be sure I'm truly being objective?' Asking other people for their thoughts can help. But there is always the issue of their own agenda... maybe they wish to be kind. Maybe they wish to be unkind. Maybe they wish to be honest, but also struggle with objectivity.

I'd suggest we can never be sure that our considerations of our life story are objective. But we can try our hardest to be objective and can try our hardest to live as honest a life as possible.... honest to ourselves as well as those around us.

If, in doing so we also find deity and we can be honest about our perceptions and the potential subjectivity of those perceptions, then we can truly find motivation and justification for the effort required to rise to the challenge.

Something I've tried to incorporate into my own efforts in rising to this challenge though is the concept of forgiving oneself. There is little point in beating oneself up when one slips into subjectivity. Subjectivity is a default state that begins from birth.

Subjectivity has its uses as a survival method too. So it would be wrong to try to reject it totally. But in the quest to truly know ourselves and to know deity, we must try to find the courage to control our subjective survival methods and allow as much objectivity as we possibly can.

Heh, that could read as total mystical/philosophical garbage. But I know what I mean and what I try to do. :)



Jeremiah said...

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Mike,

That doesn't sound to mystical/philosophical garbagey to me. In fact it sounds quite practical, but then I am looking at it from the totally objective position of determining what your words have to say about my words, and how much I like my own words which objectively think are really cool, so your words about my words must be pretty cool too, because they are positive interactions with my words, and therefore are definitely (but objectively!) cool too, and therefore I don't have to forgive myself about being subjective, because by my personalized objectivity I recognize that you and I must be absolutely correct.

Know what I mean? :-)

cern said...

In a perfectly objective sense.... of course. :D



Beverly Tyre-Flanagan said...

Like flowers point to the sun, and that is their story, we each point to God. Even when we are faced in the wrong direction, we tell His story, part of which is that we cannot live out of line with Him. We were created in the image of God--- unbelievable but true--- and reflect that Image. This is interesting reading, Phil, and I appreciate the couple of references. We could definitely mull this over for some time.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Bev,

Nice illustration in the flowers pointing to God. I do think like you say that we will tell His story no matter what we do.

Peace and Grace to You!