I’d like to tell you about a skill I learned when I was about 6 or 7, one that I am relearning at 28.
See, when I was little I loved going to out to eat and playing video games at the arcade (at Fuddruckers, for example). I’d put quarters in those little candy machines and get and handfuls of candy. Part of the process was sorting it out. In particular, I remember those hard fruit-shaped candies (I can’t remember what they’re called). I loved the pink ones, the heart ones… and come to think of it, since when is there a heart fruit? How misleading for a young person... I digress. As much as I loved the pink ones, I hated the banana ones. I mean they tasted like urine, probably. If you like them, then we are not friends.
I took a sabbatical at the end of last year (that means I didn’t go to church, and wasn’t doing any serving in church). It was great, and I learned a lot in a short period of three months. One of the things I noticed as I backed away from traditional church service was how much weight I put in the voice of spiritual authorities.
If you are a church person, you know that pastors are a blessing and a curse. If you are not a church person, then please know that pastors are a blessing and a curse. Really, this is true of any voice in one’s life. I’d like to break down why.
See, pastors, preachers, gurus, therapists, parents, Oprah, etc. are a huge blessing. They can guide us, pave the way, be our biggest cheerleaders in saying “Hey! Right living looks like this.”
I can easily think of a half dozen people who I feel have spoken The Word of the Lord to me. I am eternally grateful for them.
But also, sheesh, they can mess up, right? If they say something helpful today, then I form an expectation that tomorrow they will say something else useful.
BUT SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T HAPPEN.
Sometimes people who are doing their best to point people to God, EVEN PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY GENUINE,
wait for it
They make mistakes.
They say the wrong thing, give bad advice, punch you in the teeth.
But, JESUS IS LORD, it’s too much pressure to put on one human to always be in tune with God or even to always say something helpful.
Prophets these days don’t have quite the batting average they used to, and I think that’s the way God wants it. He’s sort of loosening the reigns a bit, and instead of having to overtake people with the Holy Spirit, I suppose he’s trusting the process of transforming people slowly from within.
This is more risky and messy.
Just like God to do.
So, of course I’m inviting you into a paradox. What is God’s favorite way to speak? Through other people. Who’s likely to do the most damage to you? Other people — particularly ones you trust, ones you’ve opened yourself up to.
Now, you may say “actually, Joshua, God gave us the Bible and that’s the purest thing we got.”
I agree. But also, guess what? The Bible was written by… you guessed it! People! And also the Bible has several notable flubs in it… so, while yeah, it holds a special place in my heart, I still view it the same as I view humans: a lump of dirt filled with divine breath.
Are you feeling the paradox vibes yet? Good. Ya should.
So, to be clear, I’m not telling you to suck it up and get over it if you’ve been hurt by an important voice in your life. I’m also not ruling out the idea that God may have spoken through them.
Yes and amen to both.
I’m asking you to be an adult and take responsibility for tossing out the banana candies. And for looking for hearts where you may not expect them. The voices you allow into your life will give you some tasty stuff and some yucky stuff.
Michael Jordan missed 50.3% of the shots he took. That’s right. Just over half were duds. According to my lazy googling, the figure is 12,345 shots missed (which, by the way, seems odd because it’s literally one, two, three, four, five, but whatever). My point is this guy effed up a lot. Thousands of times. But we still consider him a legend.
So, you have voices in your life, just like me. Some voices say awesome stuff and you are expecting more. Some voices you’ve written off as only banana-delivering.
I am asking you to challenge both.
No matter who you are listening to, you are getting a mixed bag, a mixed handful of candies, as it were. This is how God allows it to be in his wisdom, so I say we get used to it.
Jesus, I am grateful that you never once gave me a darn banana. I am also grateful that you trust me with life, that you risk allowing me to do some sorting of my own. Bless you. Amen.