A story about a book. Kind of. It rambles…
Here’s a story – I’ll let you decide if it’s weird or not – about a book title populating my feeds lately: Experiencing God. The 30th Anniversary issue is just now published, but I’m writing about it as a new book.
Where I reveal myself as an ass.
I was going to an early-morning Bible study on Wednesdays before trudging to work to save the world from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. We gathered for a new study, and our leader chose Experiencing God, a book I can’t believe has made it these thirty years except that I believe anything where human beings are involved. From the start, I was cold to it. We spent the first few minutes of the first study talking about what we hoped to get out of the book and the study. Each had a story about how they wanted to better understand G’s will for them and to be more open to it. Each hoped that Experiencing God would give tips and tools for, well, experiencing G.
We circled around until the arrow pointed to me, and, I mean, what Christian says they aren’t interested in a closer relationship with G? It’s the basis of the entire thing. Each one made the same point: they wanted a better understanding of what G wanted, revealing to them how He wished them to live minute by minute. I agreed…to a point. Certainly there are times in and outside of Scripture when someone hears from G as Jonah did. But, I said, we all know what G wants of us: to live humbly, to be of service, to be transformed, to give sacrificially…read the Gospels, I said, and if you’re doing all that G would have you do then throw the book away, and we’ll all be your disciples.
By the end of the second Wednesday, I revealed even more garish colors. A fella there – a guy I worked with and who published a Christian newsletter – told us he prays each day before driving to work. There’s a fork in the road a few miles out, he said, and I pray about which way to go. There might be someone broken down on the road who needs help, and I want to be sensitive to G directing me to help them.
The rest of the group patted him on the back as an exemplar of how to live. I wondered aloud if he prays about what to wear when he gets dressed?
“Well, imagine this,” I say. “What if there is someone broken down on the road like you say, and they need help? Along with that, their house was broken into once by a guy wearing argyle socks, just like yours. You pull over to help them, and as you set your feet on the ground to slip out of the car, all they see of you are your shoes and socks, and they have a panic attack. You see where I’m going?”
Lots of grimacing and hesitant nodding.
“Do you ever pray about even getting up from bed?”
“Why in the world would He want that? I have a job and need money to pay the bills.”
“Maybe G wants you to stay home and rest? Or avoid an accident at work? I haven’t a clue why he wouldn’t want that of you. Dude. I’m not G. And we all know He can find another way to pay your bills. So, before long, you’re praying about every little thing. Should I have orange juice? Should I have this orange juice and use this glass? Taken to the nth degree, it’s easy to see that you are stymied throughout the entire day.”
I don’t think he liked me
Another episode – the last before I left the group – was with Brother Gil. Brother Gil was a snow-covered OB/GYN in town and respected. He kept a cadre of disciples who met with him for wise counsel, and this episode followed a similar pattern to the one above.
I was talking with a guy from Gil’s group, who told me he just got his passport. Brother Gil encouraged his entourage to get passports as they never knew when G would call them to leave the country. Within a few hours.
I wouldn’t deny the possibility, but asked if he was also going to the local community college.
“Why?” he wondered.
I just assumed you’re studying French, too.
“Why would I study French?” he said.
“Well, you said you got your passport in case you need to skedaddle by this weekend, right? What if G wants you to go to France? Brother Gil says you should prepare for any eventuality, right? I mean, I would guess you’re studying French and Spanish and German and Russian. With English, that should get you by in most countries.
“Hmm. Well, Brother Gil didn’t say anything about that.”
The prayer closet. And chickens.
What Brother Gil did tell us in the Wednesday morning Bible study is that it’s often the case that he’s unsure about how to proceed when he’s delivering a baby. His staff knows that if he’s confused or unsure of what to do, he’ll slip out of the surgery into a small room in the back and pray about how to move forward.
The entire class nodded vigorous yeses, a sure vote that Brother Gil was following the straight and narrow. Clearly, this is a godly man doing a godly business in a godly way.
I was aghast and said so, my wife having just delivered Number Four. We didn’t use Brother Gil, but he was one of the few OBs available in our smallish town.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I said. Nods stopped in mid-bobble “I mean, do you get paid in chickens or what? Dude, women have been having babies for a million years without men around supervising. I understand medical complications, but I mean, I just paid someone a few mortgage payments and I expect them to know what they’re doing. No matter what goes on.”
The study leader forced a chuckle.
“Now, let’s not get heated here. We’re all committed to learning how to hear G in all circumstances.”
We agreed, but Brother Gil was less than amused at my observation. Or at me asking if he got paid in chickens.
By now – I’m a slow learner – it was clear to me that as much as I liked these folks, and worshiped with them on Sundays, we saw the world and Christianity in fundamentally different ways. And I didn’t think they needed any more of my sharing. It was the last time I went.
The rocky crag of assdom
I wrote this maybe five years ago, before my accident, and before the reawakening of my faith. It’s easy now for me to see that I was an ass. Or I at least teetered on the rocky crag of assdom.
But, I still hang on to my points: Yes, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. I won’t try to tell you what this means, or how you should live it out, but will say that my opinion leans towards prayers of thanks or for acknowledgment, rather than to stop and pray about G’s particular direction at that moment. To me, it’s simple logistics: If I pray about each step of breakfast before I go to work, I have to either get up really early or get to work really late.
I admit, too, that I never got ‘round to reading Experiencing God. Maybe there is plenty of good stuff there that I missed with my pigheadedness. I see now in mailers I get that there is an Experiencing God Bible for sale, and a journal/workbook, probably filled with lessons of what G would have you do in most or all situations. Funny, but I thought that was what the original was for?
Note that I did know someone who was often paid in chickens. Well, I didn’t know her, but know their grandchild. He was a co-worker, and we still keep in touch. His grandmother was a midwife, and he remembers her getting calls at all hours to deliver and remembers, too, that she might come home with a chicken or two for the pot. This is the deep south of long ago, way before medicine turned itself over to efficiency and cost-cutting. He says that she never cared if she was paid, but he liked to hear the clucking when she came home. It meant dumplings that night.
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