Recently, I attended a women’s conference at my mother’s urging. It wasn’t my typical scene, but my free ticket came with a free lunch and it just so happens that free food is on my short list of favorite things. As soon as I opened the door to the conference center, I began to criticize everything—the speaker, the book promotions, the mugs and t-shirts and cheesy marketing. Judgment poured out of me like a fire hydrant. Why am I even here? What could I learn from people who were overtly “cliché” or theologically different than me? How could I be taught by a woman who insisted that all 7 of the points in her talk begin with the same letter?
“What do YOU have to say to ME?”
At this point, I know Jesus was rolling his eyes at me.
When I stood up to pace and fume, I recognized my immaturity and unwillingness to be taught. My pride had very quickly carved out a canyon between these women and me.
Just because they were different from me doesn’t mean they weren’t going to say something I needed to hear.
And the first talk I heard at that conference changed my life. I heard from God in a clear and powerful way.
But in my arrogance, I could have missed the voice of God that day.
Maybe unlike me, you’re ok being taught by speakers who insist on using tired platitudes. But all of us have people by whom we do not want to be taught. Maybe it’s the uneducated or the ultra-liberal or the hyper-conservative. Maybe it’s those younger than us or those struggling with sin. Maybe it’s women. Maybe we don’t want to hear God speak through those who aren’t formally trained or in a staff position at church.
But the truth is, it’s hard to see Jesus if we aren’t open to the various ways he makes himself known.
The Pharisees were the experts on the law and all things Yahweh-related. One particular Sabbath, Jesus healed a man born blind. To the Pharisees, the healing act was offensive, inexplicable, and worse—it happened on the holy day of rest.
Incensed, the Jewish leaders brought the healed man under intense scrutiny, questioning him about Jesus:
“The only thing I know,” said the man,
"Is that I was blind but now I see.”
The Jewish leaders were in an uproar, pressing the man for information and trying to disprove the validity of the miracle.
Finally, the man was fed up.
“This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this!”
And, in anger, they threw him out, yelling, “You were born in complete sin! How dare you try to teach us?”
“What do YOU have to say to ME?”
The Jewish leaders were unimpressed with the man’s observations. He hit a nerve by calling into question their authority. How was it, the man said, that you don’t see God’s visible activity? How is that you are more blind than I ever was?
And instead of listening, they expelled the man who had a miraculous encounter with God. Instead of marveling at God’s work, they covered their ears so that the truth wouldn’t disrupt their perfectly structured theology.
And in their arrogance, they missed the voice of God right in front of them.
“How dare you try to teach us?”
Maybe we aren’t as teachable as we say we are.
Do we really want to hear from God? Or do we only want to hear from God if God’s voice comes in a way in which we are most comfortable? Are we open to the creative voice of God or do we try to control how God speaks and moves?
We can miss God when we are focused on the vessel through whom the voice of God comes.
The blind man saw Jesus. The ones who should see God missed him altogether.
The truth is, the voice of God is carried and sung through the mouths and lives of countless people.
And being teachable doesn’t mean we believe everything we hear. We must always look to God for resonance and revelation. But just as importantly, we need to recognize that even those most different from us might have something to say to us about our own need for God and grace and forgiveness.
We cannot become like Jesus unless we’re willing to see Jesus. And this sight requires humility. Get over yourself long enough to let God be God. And watch God interrupt the ordinary in unexpected ways and through unexpected voices—even if they are cheesy.