|Putting the pieces of the puzzle together means being at peace with uncertainty.|
Rich Mullins once said "I think if we were given the scriptures it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the scriptures it was to humble us into realizing that God is right and the rest of us are just guessing. Which is what makes them so much fun to read, especially if you are not a fundamentalist."
I always loved that quote, but I don't think I ever fully understood it until the other day during my morning devotions. I've always had the sense that every time I read the Bible, I should be able to: 1) understand what the passage means and 2) understand how it speaks to me and my situation. When that doesn't happen I've tended to feel discouraged, like a spiritual failure. I've wondered if my connection to God is as strong as it should be, and sometimes I allow doubt to creep in, assuming that if I can't figure out what this scripture means then perhaps it has no meaning at all.
Which is pretty arrogant when you think about it. It's like when a students says "math is stupid" mainly because he doesn't understand it. In the learning process, our ability to understand something says nothing but it's intrinsic value. The same is true of the Bible.
The fact is that we won't always understand everything we read (yes, even if we ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance. Sometimes it's the Holy Spirit's guidance that keeps us humble enough to say--hmmm, well I don't really understand that rather than forcing an interpretation or creating a self-serving lesson). We don't always need to have an Answer, and we especially don't need to have a little lesson to take away from each time we open God's Word.
I've long felt it a mistake to treat the Bible as a history or science textbook (which is not to say that there isn't any history or even a little science in it), but more recently I've also come to be wary of the Bible as prescriptive "guide for living." The whole "Biblical approach" to managing finances or marriage or child-rearing or health feels a little suspect. I'm just not sure that we're using the Bible correctly when we approach it that way. To me the Christian Bible is a narrative that reveals the story of God and His interaction with His wayward creation. It begins with God shrouded in mystery. The picture is often cloudy, unclear and maybe even inaccurate, but the narrative climaxes with the clearest picture we have of the character, nature, intentions, and heart of God towards us in the person of Jesus. The Old Testament is primarily the back-story to Jesus, but it is a rich back- story, filled with flawed and colorful characters clumsily seeking after God, various dead-ends and misunderstandings, but also myriad hints of Jesus and foreshadowings of the Savior to come.
The primary purpose for reading the Bible is to be in the presence of God and to look for Jesus. Sometimes in our meditation on Scripture it all seems to come together to create a clear picture. Other times the pieces of the puzzle just don't seem to fit--and here as with a jigsaw puzzle, it's important not to force a fit when one isn't there. Just be patient. Accept and even rejoice in the humble realization that we just don't have an answer now. Have faith that just because I don't see the solution, doesn't mean that there isn't one.