Pastor will you out the lights? I was on my way inside the church and the lights were still on. It was a gentle reminder from one of our men so that I didn’t forget to turn them off. That and he was probably tired of my rants about people turning lights off when they were the last ones out of the building.
To a lot of people out the lights is a strange way to ask someone to turn the lights off but to the Pennsylvania Dutch people among whom I minister it (along with many other colorful expressions) is quite typical. There was a time when I would have wondered what it meant but after hearing it over and over again it’s become part of my thought process (although many of their expressions are still a mystery to me).
That made me think about God. Sometimes God speaks to us in a strange language – a language that we struggle to understand. Maybe I should say that He speaks in a strange way. We understand the words just like we understand the three words out – the – lights, but understanding the words is not the problem. The problem is we don’t always understand what God means (out the lights) by the words He uses.
An example might help here. Jesus said to His disciples if any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple/follower (Luke 14:26). Among the hard sayings of Jesus that one has to rank somewhere near the top of the list. To those who were raised in an evangelical church you might have some understanding of what Jesus meant, but think about the person who picks up a bible for the first time and randomly turns to that page and reads those words. They understand the words – come to me – hate – cannot be my disciple, but they may never get past the words to what the words were intended to convey. The problem is that they don’t understand what Jesus meant by the words He used. Many of us are right there. Even as Christians we struggle with understanding what God means by what He says. And if we can’t understand what He means how can we know what He wants from us?
So what do you do when you don’t understand the words of God? Here is my suggestion; spend more time with God. The only reason that I understand what it means to out the lights is because I have spent time with people trying to understand what they mean by the words they use. Admittedly I still have a long way to go – but then I have a long way to go with God too. But I find that as I spend more time with God, reading His word, searching the scripture, agonizing over the hard sayings, little by little it becomes clearer. Not all at once, but slowly.
One final thought – when you struggle with what God is saying don’t feel alone. All of us struggle. In fact the disciples struggled with some of His teachings. Their exact words were this is a hard/difficult saying; who can understand it (John 6:60)? We are all on the same spiritual journey and it’s not an easy one. But it is a worthwhile journey so don’t give up. Start with what you do understand and go from there. As you spend time with God you will begin to understand Him more and more – and who knows, someday you may even understand what it means to out the lights.
Stay in the Word