Truth: Comprehension.

My grandmother’s frail hands slightly shook, uncontrolled, as they waivered over the opened Bible in front of her.  She looked at me, then back to the text, and then back at me.  I could see the frustration in her eyes: she was frustrated because she wanted to talk to me and ask me questions about the book, but she was also frustrated by the book itself.  She pushed her weakened voice until a tiny sentence came out, ragged and quiet, “How do I read this?”

In her 95 years my grandma encountered the Bible many times – she had been to church for nearly all those years, had a close relationship with God, and fostered the love of her Creator in her children and grandchildren.  Over the last few years of her life she occasionally admitted to me that she had struggled in reading and understanding the Bible and all it entailed.  Her beliefs never waivered much, but she wrestled with comprehending the words she read.

In that moment as we sat together in the nursing home, I desperately wanted to say something profound and inspirational to her.  I wanted to say something that would console her in her final weeks on this earth; I thought for a second and blurted out, “Keep doing what you’re doing.  Read, ask questions, pray, re-read, pray, ask questions.  And repeat that again and again.”  I smiled and held her hand, but I knew my answer wasn’t entirely profound, and definitely not inspirational.  I knew that my words frustrated her even more.

It was hard to guide my grandmother at that moment in how to read the Bible because she knew the Bible – she lived out its pages all her life as she fed the hungry and gave to the needy (Proverbs 31:20), raised a good family (Proverbs 31:28), encouraged her friends (Hebrews 10:25), talked with others about God (Mark 16:15), brought my grandpa utter joy and love (Proverbs 12:4), built a strong household (Proverbs 14:1), and tried to understand the Word (Proverbs 1:7).  She wasn’t just a hearer of the word, but a doer (James 1:22).

My grandma sought after God and found what she was looking for in spite of her doubts, fears, and frustrations.  She may have thought she wasn’t doing this Christianity thing right, but she was doing it exactly the way it should be done.  She plowed forward and fought to find God so she could hear that still, small voice in the deserts of her life.  She professed her love of God with her voice, with her smile, with her love for others.  She understood the Bible more than she thought she did, and taught many others around her how to understand it as well.

Truthfully, I would do well to heed the same words I gave my grandma and act as she did because I, too, struggle to understand the Bible.  Despite the classes I’ve taken in (and out) of seminary, I often feel that I don’t know much of anything, and I often wonder if I’m doing anything right.  I suppose part of my struggle is that I want to do everything correctly and honor what I read before I put it into practice, but I’m putting it into practice and not perfection.  I’m going to screw up, I’m going to make mistakes and errors (a lot – trust me, I will), but thankfully God gives me (and you, and my grandma) lots of leeway to try and figure it out as we go.

May we read, ask questions, pray, re-read, ask questions, pray, and re-read the word of God until we comprehend the tiniest of details, and may we act according to what we read, even if we don’t understand fully how to do it.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Nose Goes!

When it comes to praying, I’ve noticed that since middle school there’s always been a rush to see who could touch their nose first – the last to do so having to pray in front of the group.  As a shy and introverted teenager I wasn’t always thrilled to pray in front of others and was usually the first to have my index finger on my snout.  But as I’ve grown older and more comfortable in speaking with God, I’m usually the one who ends up praying – partially because my reflexes aren’t as cat-like as they once were, but mostly because I’m okay with praying in a group.

In truth, for me, my faith is one of the few places where I let people into my life to see who I am – I don’t always let people know my personal stuff (family issues, self-doubts, frustrations, loneliness), so to pray in public is fine with me.  I’d rather be vulnerable and stripped bare in my faith than in other places in my life.  I find comfort in being open in my faith because it’s one place where I know others are uncomfortable and feel just as nervous and terrified and unsure about it as I do, and I know that most won’t judge me for where I’m at in the whole thing.

For the most part I think people enjoy and see the necessity to pray to God; what people don’t always relish is praying in front of other people.  There’s a certain amount of vulnerability involved in speaking to our deity and oftentimes we do it in a very naked way.  In those moments of speaking with God we are stripped of all pretenses, all airs of greatness, all pompousness and we are who we really are apart from everything we’ve made ourselves to be.

To be that naked and that vulnerable with other people can be scary.  That’s where I think a lot of people get hung up when praying out-loud – we’re afraid of judgement.  We’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, saying something outlandish or improper, not having the right words or phrases, or not being concise.  We’re afraid that someone will judge our way of praying and we feel that it’s better to remain silent than to be vulnerable.

But by praying together, I hope that these moments can be places where relationships can grow and form and strengthen.  In our most bare times do we find our places of connection.  When someone else in a group prays with me I find a bridge to them – they are speaking to the same God and are giving words to the same feelings and thoughts and emotions I may be having.  In those moments I feel most alive, most connected, and least terrified of being alone.  Praying with others puts me on a team, places me in the hearts and minds of others, drawing me into them and they into me.

My friends, may there never be a moment of nose-goes in your prayer lives!  Pray together and be together.  Let us strip away all of our doubts and fears and be open in those moments of speaking with God as one body.  Let us be free of judgement of ourselves and others and let us grow together, fully knowing God and one another.

much love. sheth.