Life Changing Words

In his monumental Church Dogmatics, Swiss Theologian Karl Barth wrote this about the Word of God: “The Word of God always tells us something fresh that we had never heard before from anyone.” Barth reminds us that the Word of God opens our eyes to things we otherwise would never see. These words change forever how we view God, ourselves, and others. Have you ever had a text from the Bible open your eyes in a dramatic way?

I wasn’t raised in a religious home, and I had never read the Bible during those years. However, as I grew up, I had adopted popular notions of God as a being who dwells in some far-off place a long ways away from human beings. Therefore, when I picked up a Bible one day and read The Gospel of John, I was blown away when I read these words: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5). These words “told me something I had never heard before from anyone.” They were an “epiphany.” I was suddenly able to see that God is not some distant being, but a reality that abides in me. Those words changed my life forever.

What words from the Bible have done that for you? What words have been an epiphany? Sometimes a biblical text will help us discover how much pain we are in. My mother was mentally ill for over 30 years. Although I gradually accepted that her situation would probably never change, I wasn’t aware of how frustrated I was with God until a text opened my eyes. In preparation for a presentation on Psalm 22, I decided to explore to what extent this lament connected with my own experience of God. Surely the opening words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” were far from my own experience of a loving, caring God. How wrong I was. As I wrote this prayer as my own prayer, I realized how much anger there was in me, and for the first time in my life I expressed that anger. As I read my words out loud to a group of parishioners, I could feel anger welling up that had been suppressed for years. The whole experience was cathartic, and I learned that God can receive my anger without retaliating.

We don’t read the Bible to find good advice. We read the Bible to see things we otherwise wouldn’t see. If such a text has done that for you, how about sharing it in response to this blog. What text has been an epiphany for you?

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Roger GreeneComment