Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mixed Metaphors

As some of my readers know, I have been intently learning Koine Greek (Common Greek that was spoken and written during the times of Christ--the Greek of the New Testament) for about a year, now.  A couple of months ago I completed what constitutes first year Greek, which is the grammar.  Since then I have been reading every day, learning vocabulary words, and reading before an instructor once a week.  What I noticed about myself is often I gloss over the reading, thinking I should be able to read quickly.  I mean, after all, I've learned the grammar, so reading should be a piece of cake except for a few pesky vocabulary words.  Sometimes (rarely) this works, and I do get the gist of what is being said.  Most of the time, though, I end up sinking deeper and deeper into the morass of incomprehensible language until I throw up my hands in despair--wondering why I ever thought I could learn to read Ancient Greek.  The thing about Greek is you have to pay close attention to the endings of words.  Even if you might know the meanings of the words, if you don't carefully account for each ending, you will quickly become mired down, or worse, misread what is being said.  You may be asking at this point why any of this matters.  Strictly speaking, it doesn't; it's pretty much a big buzz.  But you see, all of life is a metaphor, so please stay with me.

When we first came to experience the beauty and wonder of Jesus and the incomprehensible love God has for us, we hung on His every word, whether it came from the Scriptures, the pulpit, or other Christians more mature than us in the Faith.  We carefully attended to the details, and listened intently during our prayers for God to speak to us.  Perhaps He never spoke audibly, but God did speak, and for a time we made great gains in our faith and wisdom because we were hearing, understanding, and obeying the sound instruction the Holy Spirit so lovingly and essentially provided us.

Unfortunately, after a time we start to believe we can wing it.  As with the hapless Greek student described above we think we can gloss over things, and believe if we only catch the high points it will be enough.  Before long we become disillusioned, frustrated, confused, and maybe even angry wondering why we no longer hear from God.  We forget that the language of God is too complex to just speed read; we must methodically and slowly attend to the details of what God is communicating, otherwise we find the beauty and inexpressible wisdom that only comes from Him slipping from our grasp, and our proper perspectives fogging over in the process.  As we used to quip back in the good ol' days: if suddenly God seems absent, guess who moved?

 It is human nature, of course, to easily become complacent. Even the most exciting life experiences can become routine for us.  For those of you who are married, just think about what it was like during the courtship and honeymoon, and you'll know what I mean.  If our love for our spouse takes a second seat to some other ambition (except God who must come first), marriage will soon turn "limp and lifeless" (said in a French accent for effect).  It's the same with our relationship with God; if our love for Him plays second fiddle to other concerns, we will quickly drift into the Sargasso Sea of life.  The tragic thing is in either case--and they really can't be separated (ponder this)--it will appear to us our spouse or God suddenly don't love us, or no longer love us the way we feel we need to be loved--even though they haven't changed, at all.  Our confidence and conceit which are really euphemisms for laziness and carelessness betray us into misreading the message.

Therefore, we need to slow down and take time with God, paying close attention to those noun, participle, and verb endings by praying continuously (yes, you can talk with God all the time; prayer doesn't need to be a formal affair).  Then we will find the sails of the ship of our life catching the wind again.  And the excitement of walking with God we once experienced will return and become self-energizing.

When I concentrate on my Greek the writing comes into focus eventually; and when it does, the sense of accomplishment and the feeling I have just been learning at the feet of God is indescribably exhilarating; I don't want it to end; I just want to keep reading, even though it's exhausting.

Okay, perhaps I've hopelessly mixed my metaphors, here; so I will rein it in this way. You don't have to learn Koine Greek to experience learning at the feet of God.  If you confess Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and King, then the place of learning at His feet is always open to you.  But you must attend to the details.


Jon Kokko said...

I love linguistics and have for as long as I can remember. Most of my time lately is spent on Hiligaynon. Like all languages, it's a daunting task to push through the pain points and keep going but, in the end, it's worth it. Our fast paced society has taught us to 'microwave' everything but somethings, especially the things of God, we have to slow down to better embrace them.