“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;” Ephesians 5:1
We all have known that one annoying person who hijacks the conversation by inserting him or herself in the center. They haven’t progressed beyond the toddler stage, thinking the world revolves around them. For example, if someone is talking about their recent European vacation, “that person” jumps in by telling about the vacation they took to not-so-glamorous Gary, Indiana. Or if one person shares with the group a devastating cancer diagnosis they just received, “that person” jumps in about their latest splinter. I think you get the picture. Often, “that person” is not as rude and self-involved as they come off because this need to be the center of the conversation probably stems from insecurity and lack of confidence. But they are still challenging to be around.
Recently, as I have been reading some books and listening to various podcasts, I discovered a transformative idea that has changed how I view the Bible. The metanarrative, a fancy word for the overarching theme of the whole Bible, or the big picture, has nothing to do with me. Instead, it has everything to do with the story of God in relation to creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration. This revelation of the metanarrative made me realize that I am “that person”! I have spent most of my Christian life reading the Bible from the perspective of trying to understand how it relates to me. What principles do I need to learn, and how should I apply it to my life? In every psalm, prophecy, and parable, I have searched for God’s message to me, desperately trying to become the ideal Christian. All the while, God has been trying to get my attention, desiring me to know Him!
My daughter, Maggie, was the one who decided the timing and circumstances when she was going to reach a milestone in her life, including walking, reading, and riding a bike. As parents, we couldn’t bribe, cajole, push or motivate her in any way to accomplish our desired outcome. Some may call this a stubborn streak; I call it determination and grit. Despite this trait, once Maggie made up her mind to accomplish something, nothing stopped her from achieving her goal. For example, she loved riding her first bike, as long as her training wheels were still attached. What Maggie failed to realize was that the training wheels were so worn and badly bent that they no longer touched the ground. Terry knew that they were no longer needed, so, as any good father would do, he removed them. She was livid with her doting daddy and told him that she was no longer going to ride her bike and walked away sulking! Despite Terry’s encouragements and faith in her ability, she refused to try again. But the next day, he came home to see his little blonde, pig-tailed daughter flying down the sidewalk on her bike!
Maggie’s determination and grit runs in her bloodline, as I share those same qualities, although I would label myself as stubborn! I have served God for more than thirty years, and I know that ministers might have presented this concept of the metanarrative to me in sermons. I am sure that many of my Bible scholar friends have discussed this principle with me before. But, like Maggie, I was content with trying to balance my life on a broken concept, making it all about me when reading scripture. You see, I was using God’s Word to fix me. Jen Wilkin, in her book, “Women of the Word”, points out the flaw in this way of thinking by this quote: “We ask it (the Bible) to tell us about ourselves, and all the while it is telling us about “I AM”. We think that if it would just tell us who we are and what we should do, that our insecurities, fears and doubts would vanish. But our insecurities, fears and doubts can never be banished by the knowledge of who we are. They can only be vanished by the knowledge of “I AM”. We must read and study the Bible with our ears trained on hearing God’s declaration of himself.”
I remember when I first fell in love with Terry, I wanted to know everything about him: his favorite dessert, the places he wanted to travel and what goals he wanted to accomplish in ministry. In learning these details, I also began to discover that he was a quiet, contemplative man who liked order and clear direction. Learning about Terry’s need for order and clear direction shed light on how disorderly and chaotic I was. By getting to know Terry, his nature shed light on my nature and the areas where I needed to find more balance.
When I first fell in love with God, I learned a lot of Biblical facts. I understood doctrinal truths and the scope and history of Biblical stories. I learned about His character, but because of my past, I had some distorted ways of thinking about God. For example, I knew God was good, but I did not honestly believe that He would be good to me. Instead, I thought I would have to earn my way by being a “good Christian”. For years, I lived trying to earn God’s affection by staying in His good graces. This revelation of the metanarrative has exposed me to God’s true nature. He says that he is our Father, and as any good father, I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. He loves me unconditionally, no matter what state I am in, including my sinful attitudes and actions.
At the time this blog was written, I was still waiting for news of the birth of my first grandchild. Since the day I knew of his impending arrival, this little boy has had to do nothing to earn my love and devotion. Just the fact of his existence has sparked an overwhelming flow of love from my heart. I can’t wait to hold him and get to know him. I know that, within a few short years, he will be occasionally disobedient like any child. I am sure that as he grows, I will see flaws in his character, areas where he needs guidance from the Lord. But none of his flaws or moments of disobedience will change my love for him. Nor will they affect my desire to bless his life with goodness.
The Bible gives me a glimpse into the character of God in the words of Jesus when he says in Luke 11:11-12, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you, that is his father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish, give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” Jesus goes on to say that if we, who are sinful, want to give good gifts to our children, how much more shall God give us. I am not talking about God showering us with possessions, like new iPads or Nespresso coffee machines. I am talking about filling our lives with relationships, community, and creation itself to bless us. God wants to bless us! His desire to give sheds light on areas where I remain selfish and want to withhold. It leads me to repentance and then, with a desire to be more like Him, I can sanctify my life.
Since the revelation of the metanarrative, I have read the Bible with a new perspective. I look at every book, chapter and verse to see what it reveals about the nature of God. Jen Wilkin makes this statement, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know!” I want to know God more, know what He likes and what He hates. This knowledge will help me to love God more and grow in my faith. I want to see His character in the anointed word that He has provided for us, to understand that His story is all about restoration. With this knowledge, I can, as Paul says in Ephesians 5:1, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” The word “follower”, translated from the Greek “mimetes”, is defined as an imitator. My calling is not to see myself in the Bible, but to learn to imitate God, and this perspective changes everything!