Backing out of the driveway the other day, I saw something in the sky. They call it skywriting. A plane, way up there in the sky, spelled out letters that, in my case, stopped traffic while it happened. OK, so I just stopped at the end of my driveway, but still.
What I first saw was a smiley face. Before it, the plane had already spelled out “God.” So, naturally, I smiled anticipating some message to follow about God’s love. But I lost interest as the plane started spelling out the name Steve. Janice told me later that a last name appeared after that. So, it turned out to be just a novelty over the skies of Boca.
As I drove towards the church, I noticed that the plane had spelled out a couple of letters, now cloudy (pun intended), in the wind. So something preceded the word “God,” and I had no idea what that was. Suddenly, the smile on my face from seeing the smiley face and God together furled as I pondered what those letters might have been, and hence what the message truly sought to communicate.
Added to this wonder was the fact that the letters were all backwards, kind of like reading a message in front of a mirror. The plane printed out a message aimed at somebody in Boynton, or some other point north of here. A person facing south up there would have read it correctly, not us. So the message was not for me, and maybe because of it, I didn’t understand it. And I realized that I had projected my own proclivities into it, and they didn’t fit.
And, oh, isn’t that the way communication goes? On occasion we hear something, and the message wasn’t intended for us. So we try to decipher it, and it doesn’t make sense. Or we read the message from a perspective that was not intended, and we can feel alienated or confused by it. How often do we walk by a co-worker, only hear a snippet of their conversation, and we project a whole bunch of our own stuff on them? I can hear Janice talking on the phone, I only hear one of her comments, and then I have to ask her “who in the world were you talking to?” And sometimes the answer clarifies things, and sometimes it doesn’t! The point is, we can hear parts of messages and misunderstand them.
The joke is told of a priest who was going through some recently discovered ancient documents, when he screamed out “it says ‘celebrate’ not ‘celibate!’” I think we can misread God’s messages. We can feel God is saying one thing, when He really was saying something else. We can read the Scriptures, and just like I did with the skywriting message, project our own bias into it, and not understand the real, or intended, message.
That’s why it’s so important to read the Scriptures, for one thing, in their entirety. Not the whole Bible in one fell swoop, that’s not what I mean, but honoring the context of the verse – not just latching on to one verse like I did the smiley face in the sky. BTW, theologians call it “text-proofing” when you do that.
The other guard about overhearing the Word of God in disorienting snippets is to study the Scripture with other people. We have those opportunities here, whether it be an adult Sunday School class that meets after the 9:30 service, to my Bible Study that will start in September, or groups the United Women in Faith have, there are opportunities to not just hear a snippet, but truly study the Word, and in so doing hearing from God what He truly intends us to hear.
The words in the sky eventually faded away. I had forgotten about them by the time I got to work. The Word of God does not fade away. It’s eternal. And a good, and loving message for you and for me. Let’s watch and listen for it carefully.
Back at the church,
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8