Because I’m preparing for a trip to Cuba, My Monday Moments is taking a two or three-week time out. I’m sure I’ll have lots to share upon my return. Stay tuned!
Blank looks, averted eyes, glances at the clock. Anyone who’s had teaching experience is acquainted with these indicators. You’ve worked hard and long (and even prayed!) over a Bible study lesson, talk or sermon, but no obvious “a-ha” moments are visible from the audience. No questions from participants as they linger. An even worse scenario: they don’t linger!
My first opportunity to teach (though “teach” is hyperbole) was with preschoolers when hair-pulled-back-in-a-bun “Aunt Mary” from the church in which I grew up asked if I would help with these tots. I was only about twelve so a class in hermeneutics wasn’t required to get the attention of these wigglers. Just supply crayons, a three-minute story about David or Jesus (why, oh why, didn’t we teach more about women in the Bible?), an enthusiastic rendering of “Jesus Loves Me” and the morning was a success.
As a young wife and mother I taught an after school neighborhood Bible club. Because the materials—think flannelgraph (look it up on Wikipedia!)—were supplied by the sponsoring organization, little study was necessary. The promised after-session KoolAid© and cookies also helped secure audience attention.
Decades have slipped by and myriad teaching opportunities for which I am profoundly grateful have been my lot. Topics have varied from time management to Bible survey; audiences have been as diverse as international women in Bonn, Germany to twelve men sitting on tree stumps in a Zambian village. Some opportunities have been planned and prepared, others not so much (the men on tree stumps!).
Each Sunday I sit among a dozen or more women who gather to hear from God and each other. (Pictured here on a celebration Sunday some time ago.) It’s not necessarily a time when I teach, though learning takes place. In this group I’m cast as the teacher though I’m more comfortable with the term “facilitator,” and I’m grateful that God has graciously allowed me to participate in the teaching/learning process. To be honest, I would probably study even if no one asked me to teach, but what a thrill to sit together with eager learners and see God’s Spirit minister to us all. Each week I spend hours in prayer and study and yet that very human side of me occasionally wonders if anything I’ve shared contributes to the listeners’ growth in Christ.
Such wondering is not necessarily a negative, nor is it a plea for praise. I take seriously these words: Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). I’ll keep looking for the “a-ha” moments, but even when I see a few blank looks, averted eyes, glances at the clock, I’m committed for the long haul.
During all the years we had children at home, we also had puppies. While no four-footed, furry friends now share our living spaces, we can visit too-cute-to-be-true Zasu in New York, white ball of fur Gracie in San Diego and black, lumbering, lovable Sam in San Francisco. While these much loved pets are about as unlike a trio as can be found, they share one common trait: when thunder roars from the heavens, each prefers to find a cozy place of safety.
Probably few of you think of puppies and thunder when reading the Bible, but lately I’ve been soaking in two Old Testament prophets, Hosea and Amos, and repeatedly I’ve been stopped by phrases like these: The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem and He will roar like a lion. To be honest, I much prefer God and Jesus described as shepherds, mother hens or gentle lambs but there’s no getting around these stop-in-your-tracks words coming down through the ages.
One need not engage in deep theological study to discover why God’s voice rumbled from the heavens. His loved people refused to acknowledge him as Sovereign King, choosing instead to worship idols of their own making. Their worship had turned into self-satisfying acts of pride. They broke a covenant of love designed to both honor God and serve each other. God, with passionate, loving anger, wants them to see how much they’re missing and just exactly how far they’ve obstinately and intentionally strayed from a perfect plan.
It’s a little like a parent who sees a toddler run into the street. This is not the occasion for a gentle, “Johnny, remember how we’ve talked about standing on the curb, how we’re to stop, look and listen?” No, now is the time for a scream from the core of the parent’s being. A life is in danger of being snuffed out. It’s time to roar.
I am emphatically not advocating a return to hell-fire-and-brimstone preaching. My husband was deeply wounded by just one sermon of that ilk, wounds that took decades to heal. I don’t believe that thunder, lion-like roars are God’s preferred way of speaking to his people. But when it’s necessary to save us from ourselves, when gentle prodding has been ignored, when the knee has refused to bow, God’s roar of love is just one more effort to get our—my—attention.