When I was almost twenty years old, I was going through a personal crisis. I was a sophomore in college. Although I was on academic scholarship, I was on the verge of failing my classes. I was not going to class. I was not doing most of my assignments. Rather, I was spending most of my time chasing thrills and feeling indifferent about the important things in life. If you had seen me on those nights hanging out with my college buddies, you might have noticed the vacant sadness in my eyes. I look back on memories from these days in deep shades of purple.
I had lived in rebellion of my fundamentalist church past. Some of my rebellion was justified; some was not. Either way, it was time for change and I needed to acknowledge God’s authority in my life. I needed His strength for change. I wanted to serve Him.
I was having trouble staying consistent in my studies. It didn’t help that I was up partying late every night. I had no discipline. I decided it would not hurt to skip my afternoon class. I packed my backpack, borrowed my roommate’s mountain bike and took off. I knew about this woodland trail just outside of our little college town. I navigated around the last patches of snow on my way up the drab trail. I eventually reached a clearing and noticed I was on the edge of a farm. I found refuge on this mild spring day near a twisted old tree and parked the bike. The sun glistened through the dormant branches of my tree forming yellow swatches on the matted grass where I sat.
I had packed a simple lunch, a book that a friend had given to me, and a Bible. I recall reading some Scriptures that I had memorized as a small child. As I was reading and meditating on these passages, something surprising happened—I felt the presence of God and sensed spiritual insight in a way that I had never experienced before. I knew those familiar verses from childhood; I could have taught a class on them. Yet, I never understood them like I did at this moment. It was like reading them for the very first time. They had become personal to me in that moment.
It may seem dramatic, but I spontaneously raised my hands to the heavens and surrendered my life to the Lord. I had a lot to learn from this point on, but things would never be the same in my life. I felt a sense of freedom and joy that I had not experienced in as long as I could remember. When I came down from that small mountain, I would face many challenges over the next few weeks. Those challenges would be small compared to the many difficulties I would face over the years. However, from that moment, my perspective and desires began to change. I gave my life to God and began taking baby steps, then bigger ones, in my pursuit of truth. I learned to enjoy my new life in Christ.
I share this bit of detail from my personal history to make this point—just because you have “heard it all before” does not mean that there isn’t a reason to hear it again. Why is it that two people can hear and understand the same proverbial sayings or universal truths and come away with completely different perspectives on how it applies, or even if it applies, to their lives? Even more confounding is how the same person can hear, understand, and even believe the same spiritual truths, but separated by time, can respond completely differently.
Perhaps I should say it another way: Just because you have heard it all before, does not mean that you REALLY heard it, or really processed it, or even was ready to receive it at that time. Things change. We gain wisdom and perspective. We get hit with major disappointments. As we get older, we realize that we didn’t know as much about life as we thought we did when we were younger.
I recently watched a movie in which the lead character was grieving the loss of a child. During one moving scene in the film, he went on an honest rant about religious cliches and the insensitive things that people tend to tell you when you are hurting. He quoted things like, “God has a higher purpose” and “she is in a better place.”
I know that kind of pain; yet, maybe there are times when we need to hear IT one more time. If our hearts are hard and our mind is made up, then we might not be ready. Dare we ask God to soften our hearts? Are we terrified of what it might take to make us pliable? We need not be afraid. Just as leather softens in the sun, so we can be more receptive to the wisdom of God if we bask in His glory. I am not referring to abstract spiritual platitudes. Go somewhere alone. Pray that God would soften your heart. Meditate on His divine attributes. Read the ancient Scriptures. Do not hold back any rapturous feelings of awe and wonder that come your way. If God still seems distant and cold, you are not alone. David, the man after God’s own heart, penned these words:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
David questioned God. He prayed for the “light” of wisdom. He chose to trust in God’s love. He CHOSE to sing God’s praise, even though he was not feeling it at the time.
There is no reason that we cannot look at David’s example and do the same. Are you grieving a terrible loss? Are you going through a dark valley? Do you feel as if you are hanging by a thread? Then don’t assume that just because you have heard it all before that you don’t need to think it through once again. You may be more ready to receive it than you think. While cliches and verses from the Bible you learned as a child in Sunday school may not be what you want to hear right now, but there may be a few shiny precious nuggets of spiritual insight that will guide your feet on a new path.