Our family regularly keeps up with a YouTube channel called “Smarter Every Day.” In one episode, its engineer-founder, Destin, was given a bike and challenged to ride it by his conniving welder friends. It was a regular bike in every way, except for one thing: the welders had reversed the steering column (to turn the bike left, he had to turn the handlebars right; to turn the bike right, he had to turn the handlebars left). Watch the video to discover how easy it wasn’t for Destin (and his son) to re-learn how to ride a bike. In his self-effacing, brilliant way, Destin explains how his brain had to “rewrite its entire algorithm” for riding a bike.
Destin’s backward bike escapades got me thinking about some algorithms God has been rewriting in my brain lately. (And about how many more there are to rewrite!) You see, I grew up in church, so I grew up reading and studying the Bible, and I inherited and developed (consciously and subconsciously) some very specific algorithms for doing so. Some were a product of the country in which I was born, the churches I attended, the books I read, the Christian subculture in which I was immersed. Some were excellent, some were mediocre, some were not so great.
But in the past few years, God’s Spirit has been doing the difficult, messy, good work of rewriting some of my algorithms. And it has been an incredible breath of fresh air in my study of Scripture! I thought I’d share a few of them in case they might help or encourage you.
Four of my new-to-me / old-to-humanity algorithms:
1. Sally Lloyd Wright’s Jesus Storybook Bible, required reading in one of my graduate level seminary courses and a permanent feature on my I insist! Book List begins thusly:
“Some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.
There are a lot of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.” (pg 14-17)
2. I took a seminary class that taught me how to do Biblical Interpretation. One main way we were taught to look at each Scripture passage was through the lens of the following two simple questions:
- What is the fallen condition of man? (bad news)
- How is Jesus the solution? (Good News)
3. The many authors to whom I have recently apprenticed myself (whether they like it or not!) have collectively broadened my algorithm for a few keywords used frequently in the Scripture. Unfortunately, I’d gotten into a very narrow rut with my definitions of some of these words. (How many more of these words are out there that I’m just blindly assuming I know what the Scripture means when it uses them!? Yikes.) Here are just a few that have opened up my reading comprehension:
- Salvation does not equal conversion. (I’ve already written more extensively about this here.) Salvation in the Bible is much more about restoring, reforming, renewing, and healing — humans and our world.
- Kingdom of God does not equal going to heaven when you die. The kingdom of God is everywhere God is King, everywhere God rules and reigns; Jesus’ use of this phrase has its emphasis much more in the here-and-now than I’d ever thought.
- Eternal life / death has far more to do with today than with eternal destination. I am not saying that there are no eternal destinations, I am only saying that eternal life and death, the way Jesus used it, had the distinct flavor of “How do I get the good life today?” and “How to I help myself out of the ruts I keep falling into that create hell on earth today for the people around me?”
4. In a vein similar to the above, I have stumbled upon passages / verses that I used to read confidently, smugly even. “Oh yeah, I know what this means. I’ve read this a thousand times before,” that other thinkers / authors have shown me mean nearly exactly the opposite of what I’d assumed. (With how many other passages / verses have I done the exact same thing and not realized it?! Again, yikes.) One example:
- Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yep, ya gotta keep them on the straight-and-narrow path, ya know, goin’ ta church and not listenin’ ta all that sec-a-lure music, ya know? (OK, I don’t know who the heck the person is who just said that last sentence. His identity must be buried deep in my subconscious; I’ll let you know if it surfaces. Haha. Anyway…) But I just learned that the word translated as way is the Hebrew word derek which means natural bent. Its common use was when speaking about making a bow out of a stick: one must bend the stick in the direction of its natural bent, not against that bent, or else it will inevitably break. So “training up a child in the way he should go” is far more about partnering with (moving and bending in the direction of) God and my child to discover and enhance his/her God-given, natural passions, strengths, energy, and life-giving visions than it is about keeping them on some narrow, pre-disposed path (all too often of my own parental making). That changes everything.
What new algorithms has God’s Spirit been rewriting in your brain?
May the Spirit of God continue to rewrite our algorithms (even when it hurts!) each new day as the kingdom of God soaks into more and more of the reality of our lives on earth and in the hereafter.