It is a sunny, summer Pennsylvania morning for the eight-year-old girl. She lives in an old, battered farmhouse along with her parents and five brothers and sisters. The days are spent both inside and outside with trees to climb, bicycles to be ridden, games to be played. They are poor, but no one much notices. Her mother’s full time job is caring for the six children and she managed much of that chore alone. Her father is a truck driver and he is gone days on end.
It was unusual for a car to come down the long driveway. Rarely did anyone visit. So the crunch of gravel under car tires caused eyes to peer out windows and ears to be alert.
A police car? It is likely that the realization that this was a police car caused the young mother’s heart to race. Police cars rarely were seen around these parts. And never in the driveway.
The girl watches from a distance, intimidated by the uniforms and important bearing of the two officers. She visually witnesses the conversation but is too far away to hear the words. She sees her mother crumbling. She is stunned by the wailing, the tears, her older sister racing upstairs. There are many phone calls, and that one unusual car coming down the driveway that morning rather symbolically became the grand marshal of a parade of cars and visitors that followed throughout the day.
She saw the officers. She heard the crying. She absorbed the grief-stricken responses of the participants in the drama unfolding around her. But she had missed the message. She stayed on the outer edges of the scene, quietly unnoticed, trying to understand but far too wary to approach anyone and ask the question. After all, she seemed to be the only one who didn’t know what was going on. Evidently she should know, and so she would figure it out on her own.
She feels smart for her eight years and taking in the details she is able to discern that this is bad. This is real bad. It involves police officers and police officers carry guns. They capture bad guys. It also involves her daddy. And with all the wisdom born of her innocent youth, the very worst thing she can conjure up is that her daddy must have done something wrong and he was in jail. Gauging from the reactions of those who heard the news, apparently jail was a terrifying place to be.
And so she spends the remainder of the morning locked into her own version of a story that was as bad as she could make it to justify the depth of the responses she was witnessing in the rooms around her.
She had missed the message.
Jesus spent all the years He walked on this earth counteracting misunderstood messages. A thorough reading of the gospels seems to indicate that at every turn his motives and words were construed to fit the preconceived ideas of those who held high positions in the nation, and by those they taught. Sometimes I get frustrated with those New Testament characters. I want to shake my finger at them and say, “Don’t you get it? He’s not in your world to establish a physical kingly throne on earth. Not yet! Listen to what He is telling you. It’s not about the short term. It’s about the eternal term.”
But then I have to remind myself that I know what I know because I am benefiting from the “after” story. I get the whole book and all the interpretations that come with it. It is fair to say that it is much easier to understand the message if you have the whole story to survey from beginning to end.
However, am I really that different from those Biblical characters that I feel frustrated with? Day after day I find myself whispering that I don’t understand; that even though I have the whole book, the messages I read in the scriptures don’t seem to be lining up with the events in my life.
What does the voice of God say?
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally…and it will be given him. James 1:5
It was much later that day that the little girl would ever so slowly begin to understand that there really was something worse than jail. It was called death. A highway accident had claimed the life of her father. He hadn’t misbehaved after all. He wasn’t being punished after all. He was, quite simply, gone. The confusion created by being afraid to ask questions, though, created decades of uncertainty about what really happened that day. I know. I was that little girl.
There are many conflicting interpretations to God’s story. What is the solution then, when it appears that you have misunderstood the message, when what you read in the Bible doesn’t line up with what appears to be going on in your life? The solution is to ask the Author of the story. And when you don’t understand, ask again. And if it still feels a little gray, ask again.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28 God is not a god who wants us to live in confusion over His messages. He knows the whole story from beginning to end, and He is waiting to share His real version with you.
For His Glory,