Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Close Your Bible

I love books.  My affection for them has grown steadily and developed over last ten years.  Those musty pages of brilliant text resting open in my hand.  The handmade bookmark and the last words of a chapter seal what has been a treasured moment of growth and reflection.  I think in terms of literature and thoughtful prose.  I am a dedicated reader.  This weekend, everything changed.  

My backpack was on my shoulders, as usual, but it was only opened for a pack of gum.  The notebooks, the tablet, the pens and the other helpful materials all stayed tucked away in their places.  The instructor said, “Don’t take notes” and I felt a little frustration.  This was a workshop on storytelling born from a movement of people stressing the importance of teaching through oral methods.  No books allowed.

You might be as surprised as I was to learn that most people in our country prefer oral learning.  The majority of us don’t like reading.  Still, even after hearing those statistics, I was hardened to the idea.  My resistance to the training continued until the evening of the second 12-hour day.  I was sitting at a table and going through a story with a small group.  In our discussion we began to have some issues with a particular phrase.  My immediate response was to open my bible and see what it actually said.  So I did.  The trainer paused and looked at me, “Uh, close your bible, Nathan.”  I wanted to leave.  I slowly closed it while thoughts ran through my mind.  “Who does he think he is?  Doesn't he know how wrong that is?  We need to stay true to the text.  I have a bible right here!  Let me open it, sir!”  Then I realized something.

I am going to Uganda to teach pastors, many of whom do not have the luxury of being able to read the Word of God.  And yet here I am building in anger over the very frustration that is their everyday challenge.  My heart was wrenched.  I sat in silence for a moment reflecting on how much I had to change.  How can I continue to be a book freak when I am called to minister to a culture of storytellers?  Almost instantly my resistance to the method became a firm obligation to it.  I spent the rest of the training opening myself to those areas of weakness, challenging myself to grow and memorizing the methods being taught.

Last night, as our family sat down to dinner, I told a story.  It was my first chance to put the training into practice.  With my wife at my side I engaged my family in a Bible study from a story from 2 Kings 8.  It lasted over thirty minutes!  Wow!  Again my spirit is renewed with energy and passion for the work He has planned for us in Uganda.  I am thankful for these movements in the right direction.  God is good to continue working in my life.  I trust that He is making me in to someone fit for His work in the future.

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