Now My Eye Sees You
Speaking About God Is Not The Same As Speaking To God
by Eric Elkin
Friday night Peggy and I went out to dinner with her brother, his wife and two of their friends. They are ranchers living in western North Dakota, and we were in town to pick up what I call, “The fatted calf.” Each fall, my brother-in-law’s family selects a choice steer to butcher for the family. Picking up the meat provides a great excuse to get away and visit family.
As we were leaving the restaurant, a conversation was struck up with an acquaintance of my brother-in-law and his friend. As they were talking, they introduced me to him. They told him I was a pastor and his facial expression changed. It became a little more serious, and I knew an inquiry was about to begin.
He looked at me and asked, “What kind?” I told him I was a Lutheran pastor, serving a Methodist congregation hoping to cover all my bases. “There are two kinds of Lutherans,” he replied, “one that accepts gays and one that doesn’t. Which ones accept gays?” When I told him E.L.C.A. Lutherans were accepting, he asked which one was I? I told him, “E.L.C.A.”
There was a moment of silence, and I could see him processing the information. Then he looked at me and said, “Do you preach the Word of the Lord?” And I replied, “Every day and twice on Sunday.” It was a response that met his approval, and we moved on.
This morning I read an excellent commentary on Job by Kathryn Schifferdecker. She clarified a difference between Job and his friends. Job’s friends talked about God, while Job spoke to God. This distinction made me think of all the times people have examined my credentials as a pastor.
There are conservative Christians who seek to determine if I meet their standards. Liberal Christians have a different set of rules, but judge me all the same. Then there are the atheists and agnostics who hate being preached to but feel complete freedom to preach at me. It often leaves me wishing people would not introduce me as a pastor.
Those who spend more time talking about God than to God never fully exercise their eyes or ears only their mouths. When speaking about God it is often difficult to distinguish our wisdom from God’s, but it is an important distinction. Those who talk to God have a change in vision. They begin to see the mystery of God which dwells beyond human understanding.
Despite the inquiry, I didn’t get mad at this stranger’s comments. I like to think it is because I speak to God. Because I talk to God, I do not hear condemnation. I see a child of God trying to figure out the world like everyone else. Maybe by talking with him he might see the same thing in me.
Click to read Job 42: 1-6; 10-17
When has your need to understand God gotten in the way of seeing God?
What is the difference between seeing and understanding?
Who speaks to you about God in a way that harms your vision?
Who speaks to you about God in a way that helps you see God?