I have this really great drawing book that proposes that everyone can draw, everyone can create art, but not everyone has been taught how to do it. Sure, we learn how to draw houses and stick figures and trees in kindergarten. If we’re lucky, we might learn a few things about perspective drawing and still life, but most of us have no idea what even the basics of drawing well include. So, when asked to draw something, we revert back to the old “standbys” from grade school – we draw the same houses, the same stick figures, the same trees and “hairy armpit” suns (as my elementary art teacher described them – two claps if you remember Mr. Muerell!) and eventually we get frustrated and give up any hope of being able to draw because “I’m so bad at it!” We never think of putting forth the effort to learn. Compare that picture of a hairy armpit sun up there to the reality of the sun, and you will understand the necessity of growth, of continued learning, of maturity.
This is going somewhere…
Last month at youth group the purpose of the evening was to look at how we relate to the Bible. If it is what it says it is, then it’s living, it’s tangible, it holds truth that transcends the culture in which it was written. Do we have a relationship with the Bible? Students get told “read your Bibles and pray” but they get so frustrated because they try and they just get confused and give up thinking, “I’m so bad at this!” From a few years in youth ministry and many conversations with students about the Bible, I think the same thing happens to our view of the Bible that happens to our drawing abilities. We learn some Bible stories as children, often in cartoon form, and they’re often condensed and watered down. I think it’s important to learn these stories as children, but so often we never go beyond the cartoon version, and the isolated stories we learn as children become inadequate and lose their transforming power when looked at from the viewpoint of an adult with fears, struggles, pain, and hard questions. We’re never told that, like learning to draw or developing a relationship with someone, Bible reading and relating takes practice and intention. High school students, college students, adults, we all can get lost and don’t know how to relate to the Bible because we often rely on hearsay and faded memories of arks and lion’s dens instead of going to the source and really learning how to relate to it.
Last month our small group leaders each took a few students, and each person in the group picked a Bible story they learned as a child. The goal for each of them was to go to that story in the Bible and discern what was actually there that they never realized existed. We wanted to put flesh to the bones we learned as children, to see the big picture, the messy, tragic, beautiful, redemptive truths that exist in the Bible and that can get lost when we only rely on the “hairy armpit” versions we learned as kids. One student, upon reading the adult Bible version of Noah’s story (the epitome of childhood Bible memories), told Caleb, “This is so much cooler in here!” Another reading through the story of David and Goliath commented that she always thought David was just David, she didn’t realize that, like herself, he was a “youth” and he had a family with older brothers and sisters, just like she does. These were small moments that made a huge difference in us, in how we relate to the Bible, and in how we teach others to relate to the Bible!