Have you ever heard this one?
“Mom, I’m soooooooo bored. There is nothing to do.”
And so I list off the 10 plus things they could do and usually one will make their eyes twinkle, and they scoot away with new momentum and energy.
Ever felt that way about the Word?
“I’m sooooooo bored. I’ve read this a gazillion times. I don’t see anything here I could think about for 10 seconds.”
Friends, you need to make a LIST!
Lists are especially useful when you come across a descriptive word, metaphor, parable, or name for God, in a passage. When I come across one of those, I turn to a fresh page of paper and write that word or phrase at the top. And then the fun begins.
Here’s one I did over Christmas break – thinking about the descriptive name, “Wonderful Counselor,” from Isaiah 9:6.
“For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
First, I looked up a couple of cross references where God is described similarly. Here’s Isaiah 28:29.
“This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”
Similar, yes – but here’s something interesting… “excellent in wisdom.” That helps flush out the idea of God as a wonderful counselor even more. His counsel is excellentt. I like that word.
Then I generated a list of related words and phrases as I mediated further on the word “Wonderful.”
exhaustive-less, admirable, astonishing, staggering, superior, all-knowing…
(Nice list isn’t it? Aren’t you impressed with my vocabulary?? Guess what? I used a thesaurus!!! I love my thesaurus. Get one, or use an online version!!!)
Then I thought on “all-knowing” for a while.
knowing what? about humanity, the natural world, all of history, the future, space, time, the heart of men, the ways of evil and sin, all the “what ifs” of life…
what ifs? if illness will strike, if pain will touch us, if we will move or stay, if we will succeed of fail, if we will bear up gracefully or not…
Then I thought about what my big, “What if” is right now and wrote that in big letters on the page.
WILL WE HAVE MORE KIDS?? MORE OF OUR OWN OR ADOPTION???
Then it was time to move on to “Counselor.”
Why would God describe himself as a counselor? What does a counselor do? What does a counselor NOT do. Well…
Counselors have wisdom. Counselors usually make that wisdom known. They don’t hide it away. They hang signs on the door that say, “I can help you.” They don’t bring you into the office and then shame you for needing help. Wonderful counselors don’t abuse or mislead or lie. They listen, guide, interpret, teach. They are helpers, healers, restorers. God is describing himself as a counselor, a good counselor. I can rely on Him to provide excellent wisdom to all my questions and concerns.
And then I prayed for a long time and thanked Him for being a wonderful counselor and asked Him to counsel me about my “What if.” And He has. He has listened. He has directed me to friends with wisdom. He has intersected my daily life with tons and tons of stories, messages, drawn my attention to a billboard, and brought me into the lives of several people who are walking down the paths I am considering. The Holy Spirit has been hard at work answering my prayer. And that was just ONE day’s list!!!
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace were just as good!!!
Can you see a little of the process? It’s word association. It’s brainstorming. It’s exploring. It’s researching. It’s asking questions.
I don’t do this everyday. But it’s a great exercise when words or metaphors stick out, or even seem confusing. Sometimes my word associations reveal how little I understand God. Lots of times my brainstorming produces a whole lot of embarrassing junk that looks like some sort of attempt at slam poetry. That’s OK. Usually something will crystallize into something worth praying about!
I’ll be sharing this process with our students tonight at NavNite. Would you pray that for some this would be a key to deeper relationship with God through His Word? Several of them are really working hard to keep God’s Word close – reading it, memorizing it, learning it, mediating on it… May this be just one more way the Holy Spirit uses that effort to bring transformation!!