I see the images every few days, but I don’t think of them often. We were in the mountains of Colorado in early autumn, and it was pleasantly warm as we hiked the peak of a small mountain. As we peaked, we could look over a large valley and, in the distance, we could see other peaks that were white with snow.
Where I stood, I had no anticipation of winter. It didn’t feel cold or momentous. But when I checked the forecast, the clouds I had seen in the distance were carrying fresh snow and a drop in temperatures that would made our mountain peak viewpoint a miserable place in 72 hours. The warning signs were there–I just didn’t recognize them.
When I read the Bible, I am often as blind to the storm warnings of scripture as I was that day on the peak. I feel safe, invincible, and capable, but as I read the scriptures, God is awakening my conscience and my convictions. Living and loving like Jesus isn’t really natural. I want to be selfish while Jesus calls me to be selfless. I want to be angry when Jesus wants me to forgive. I want to make demands when Jesus wants me to offer help.
What finally teaches us to pay attention to the storm signals of scripture? Unfortunately, I have found only one way that consistently captures my attention: my experience of failure and pain. Eventually, we get tired of it and we say, “Not again.” Just like the couple who moved to our town after 3 weeks without power because of a hurricane, just like the man who left a corporate job for the freedom of starting his own business because he was tired of someone else profiting off of his labor, we can pay attention to our pain and failure and practice repentance. Only then do we learn the prayer:
Lord, I see the signals and I’m running to you. Show me the sinful edges that must be smoothed, show me the relationships that I must reconcile, show me the ways that I am hurting rather than helping. And lead me with courage to follow YOUR ways.
I’m having to pray that prayer today; maybe you need it as much as I do.