Bible-reading lessons from a Seafaring Kangaroo


Accidents

As human beings, we like to imagine that we invent things because we need them. And this is all very well, other than the dozens of examples of the human race inventing things by accident. Really, we’re amazing at it. Corn Flakes? An accident. Teflon? An accident. Stainless steel? You guessed, another accident.

But without a doubt, the greatest, most world changing, era defining accident of the genre started out life as an attempt to invent a new sealant. This dismally failed venture resulted in a slightly sticky blob, and thus was born what the world now knows as “Blu-Tack”.

Blu-Tack is a staple of the existence of all households with children, holding up  assorted pictures, posters and creations brought home from school. On the whole, the Blu-Tack does an amazing job, but sometimes we parents are a trifle…over ambitious when we stick up posters.

Not so very long ago, a poster called “My First World Map”, secured by altogether too little Blu-Tack, fell from our wall. Being in a rush, we rolled it up, and put it somewhere safe.

Description of a map

“My First World Map” remained rolled up for a few days. Eventually, Elías (3) challenged us: “Where is my map of animals?”

Now to be fair, “My First World Map” does have some animals on it.  It has a useful illustration of a bald eagle plonked in the middle of North America. And a penguin in Antarctica.  And, curiously, a kangaroo situated just off the coast of Australia.  I hope it can swim.

But it also demarcates every continent, country, capital city and major sea on earth.  Other illustrations include the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and the Trans-Siberian Railway.  Elías’ description of a “Map of animals” seemed to miss the point.

Of course, God’s Toddlers don’t have a “My First World Map”. We are often found claiming that the closest we have to a map is the bible.  As I reflected on what Elías referred to as his “Map of animals”, I realised there are two ways I make the same mistake with the bible…

Mistake 1: The map showed him what he expected to see

If Elías missed the point by looking at his map and expecting to see just animals, how often do I do the same?  I might open my bible expecting to find a morality code; or a guide to political or sexual ethics; or a theological argument to refute the theology of the church over the road.

And, of course, I  will find them, in the same way as Elías will find a seafaring kangaroo off the coast of Australia.  And, like Elías, I will have missed the point.

If I’m going to see the full marvel of what’s there, I can only start with one expectation: that God will speak.

Mistake 2: Maps are intended for use in the real world, not as a replacement for it.

That’s not the fault of the map.

A map can tell me where I might look for something.  It can tell me how to get from where I am to where I’m going.  It can prepare me for some of what I might find on the way.  But it needs me to go end use it in the real world for it to make sense.

“My First World Map” tells Elías a lot of useful information.  None of it’s wrong – and Kangaroos are quintessentially Australian – but Elías will have to one day go exploring the world if he’s going to get the full picture of what the map is telling him.

In the same way, my bible is a pointless waste of space until I pick it up and go out into the real world, and apply it to my real life to find out how it works.  That’s the only way to get the full picture of what my “map” is telling me.

To illustrate what I might miss if I just try to understand the bible on its own, rather than use it in the real world, think about this.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef structure on earth. It is over six thousand years old. It is home to fifteen hundred species of fish and thirty species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. You can see it from space. And yet if all you have to go on is “My First World Map” you’d expect the sea there to contain one, solitary kangaroo.

© Photo All Rights Reserved by Belinda Corney

© Text 2013 Paul Brownnutt

Creative Commons License

Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Today’s post is brought to you by 1 Samuel 3:10 and Matthew 7:24

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