Needless to say this seemed totally inappropriate. I wasn’t even talking to her.
“I am not! You always do this. Get out of my… No. YOU are the one who… No.”
I just want to get through this grocery line, man. Buy my bananas and loaf of bread and diet tonic water. I just want to get through the day without arguing with a crazy stranger. It’s kind of a goal.
“Stop it! Stop it!”
She’s not looking at me. She’s looking glassy-eyed straight ahead. This is at first a relief. Then it only ratchets up the weirdness. She’s not talking to me… but there’s no one else around… so…
“This conversation is over. I’m hanging up. Goodbye!”
*facepalm* BLUETOOTH. Couldn’t see the tiny receiver tucked into her ear under her hair. I don’t like it, man. The world is full of people talking to themselves, and it’s getting harder to tell who hears little voices in their ear because of technology and who hears voices because they’re a few pickles short of a jar. I’d like to propose that bluetooth earpieces come with a little stick that extends over your head with a small, tasteful bright orange flag flying, so as to alert the world that you are hip, not simply nuts.
So we’ve established that there is “bad” talking to yourself. If you’ve ever been around true (as in, non-bluetooth enabled) talking to yourself, we can agree… it’s unnerving.
But there is another kind of talking to yourself that I am sold-out for, passionate about. It’s the kind of crazy we need MORE of in our churches. Last month I wrote two posts on sermon preparation (here and here). One of my friends left a comment and shared this quote from John Calvin:
“If the preacher is not first preaching to himself, better that he falls on the steps of the pulpit and breaks his neck than preaches that sermon.”
Amen! I mean, as it applies to me. I wish no ill to befall my fellow pastors trying to serve their congregations with fresh insights from the Word of God week after week. I mean no harm to the Sunday School teachers who wrestle their gaggle of 13 fourth graders to attention each Sunday morning. In no way do I want injury to befall the bazillions of small group leaders who are trying to lead Bible studies week to week with no formal training, wondering if they are qualified to serve but gladly doing it anyway because they love Jesus.
I am you. All of you who handle the Word of God and try to share it’s power and insight with other people. So I’m writing as a fellow crazy person, believing that somehow God can use me and my limited intellect and wavering allegiance to teach His people. It’s crazy, because, who am I to be a leader, a teacher, an example? I’m a broken mess.
And therein lies the mystery and the genius of God’s Church. His Word is alive, and it speaks today. His Spirit is the true teacher. We human preachers and teachers and Bible study leaders… we’re just His servants, serving other servants. Not higher than. Not holier than. Side by side. All sinners in need of grace and all being reformed into Christ’s image for the sake of God’s reputation, not ous.
So as a fellow servant… who happens to teach the Bible some times… I want to let you know something about me.
I talk to myself.
I’m a rookie preacher, you know. A first year of Seminary under my belt in the next couple weeks. So as a preacher, I’m got a lot of learning to do. We all know the difference between a preacher who seems to be “up there,” just doing his own thing, and those preachers who are talking right to you. Like the Bible is piercing through the religious veneer and the “I’m at least as put-together as the guy next to me” front we wear to church, and messing with our heart itself. I only have one life, after all, and it’s already half spent. I don’t want to waste a minute giving random religious self help talks, or even disconnected exegetical Bible lessons that fail to pierce the fog between the pulpit and the pew.
I’m praying the the voice of God and the nearness of His Spirit are unmistakable when I preach. And that’s crazy. I’m nobody. But God uses nobodies all the time.
Maybe it’s because the “have-it-all-together” crowd doesn’t feel that reckless desperation for God to be behind the wheel. I don’t know. But I do know that God has tons of refining work to do in me. And the times, it seems, when my teaching makes the deepest impact or resonates with the greatest connection between my notes and the people facing me are the times when what I am teaching has grown out of a deep realization that God is working this truth out in ME. When His Word has broken through my walls and reached my inner self and shined the light on my dark corners… then I am ready to teach. When God has spoken to me, then I’m ready to speak to my fellow servants.
So if you’re me… a fellow teacher in the Kingdom, trying to rightly handle the Word of God and realizing how daunting that responsibility is, rember this:
It IS as crazy as you think it is that God would speak the truth of His Word through cracked pots like you and me. Lunatic fringe crazy. But that’s part of the genius of His plan. He knows that we’re a mess, and that leaves lots of room to teach us about His character and power and grace.
Don’t spend this one life you have making religious speeches. Get into the Word where God can break our heart and make it soar. Be moved and changed… and THEN teach. Not before. The church needs more preachers and teachers and Bible Study leaders who think it’s crazy that God would use them. That crazy keeps us desperate. And His power is made perfect in weakness, not in self-reliance. That’s why when I get get up in that pool of light in front of my friends and fellow servants, notes in one hand and Bible in the other, I pray and pray and I remember that I’m not up here simply to talk the talk in their direction…
I’m talking to myself.
“i talk to myself :: keeping the crazy close” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.