I am a bit of a sponge. That is, I have a nasty habit of immersing myself in the pain of other people. I do it to the point that I kind of feel like whatever has happened has actually happened to me. Walking in other people’s shoes is often painful. Literally. But then, there are times when it is, well, just plain fitting.
A few years ago, a friend and I were talking about people in the bible. And he asked me when I read, which character did I identify with in the story. Was it the hero, or was it the “villain”? This was such a good question, and I’m pretty sure it changed my spiritual life forever! Now, every now and again I would put myself in the role of each character, as any good sponge would do. But did I do it consistently? No. When I started to do so, I was seeing some things for the very first time!
When I read the story of David and King Saul originally, I saw myself as a young David, being treated cruelly by a deranged leader. ( I’ve had a couple of those.) But more recently, I see now the jealousy and insecurity of Saul, and how that very much mirrored my own life. Samson and Delilah. It was alway easy for me to see myself in Samson’s weakness, but I had failed to see how I sometimes sought to manipulate others, like Delilah, to get whatever it was I thought I needed.
And the good old Israelites of Exodus. It is easy to see ourselves in the role of an overworked, overstressed Moses, but not so easy or pleasant to see ourselves in the less attractive role of the whiny, dissatisfied, and often selfish Israelites.
It kind of reminds me of a verse in I Corinthians 13: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. If we see only one side of ourselves, the one that doesn’t need changing, then we have very blurry vision.
Some often refer to the bible as God’s “love letter” to us. Remember. Love is honest and only speaks truth. Did you ever think, ‘what’s God thinking about what I’m taking away from this story?’ I have. And sometimes I think He probably sounds a little like this: “Wow, that is very insightful, what you’ve learned about Moses in this story. But guess what. That’s not who I wanted you to see! I wanted you to see YOU, and you aren’t looking in the right place!”
What I’m about to say may hurt some feelings, but here I go. Maybe the first step to change the self-righteousness that is SO associated with the church (and rightly so), is to start to see ourselves for who we really are, and put ourselves in the RIGHT shoes!
Challenge: When you read the bible, put yourself in the place of every character in the story. When you come across one that is uncomfortable and is squeezing you a little too tight, pay attention! Those just may be your shoes!