Recently a friend of mine started reading books about psychology. One day she’d like to be a therapist or counselor and so she reads these books in her free time just to give her a sense of what she’s getting into. In one of the books she was reading the author discussed how as humans we are constantly taking in new information. The key to well-adjusted living is in our ability to make maps of the information we are processing, to sort through what information is important and how it might change our decision-making processes.
I was going to give you an example of the time in our history when everyone knew the earth was flat and when new information as discovered, and that we literally had to re-draw our maps to reflect the new information we had. But my brother-in-law told me this week that that was a myth made up in the 1940s and that everyone knew the earth was round for a long time.
Whatever the case is about people knowing the earth is round, the fact is that we are constantly gaining new information about the world we live in, about the geography of our world, and we do need to re-draw maps as we gain that information. Unfortunately, as individuals, this process of map-making is more and more difficult as we get older. My guess is that’s because the volume of information we make sense of only grows as we age and this is difficult work. We think we’ve got things figured out then everything changes and sometimes our whole paradigm shifts. Sometimes it’s easier to reject the new information as false and cling to our old maps.
When I think about examples of new map-making in Scripture, I think of Isaiah 43:18-19, when God says to the Israelites :
18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.19 I am about to do a new thing,now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Or I think about the gospel of Mark, where for the first half of the book, everyone is trying to figure out who this guy Jesus is until chapter 8 when Jesus comes out and asks the disciples what they think. Peter says, "You are the Messiah." And that's great, but immediately Jesus begins to re-define the role of the Messiah. He teaches them that the Son of Man will suffer and die and after three days rise again. This isn't the Messiah they were expecting. Those who were able to integrate this new information about the Messiah were able to have a relationship with God and participate in building the first iteration of the Christian church. Those who weren't able to re-draw their maps lost those opportunities.
And to be clear, in many ways this wasn't new information. The Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah hadn't actually changed. But their understanding of those prophecies, their interpretation of them, had to change in light of the person of Jesus and the authority he demonstrated.
A few years ago a question began to ruminate in my mind: what does it mean for me (a woman) to be made in the image of God (who is only described with masculine pronouns in Scripture)? This question led me to areas that were uncharted on my map. You see, I grew up in a family and a church tradition that excluded women from church leadership. I was taught, and I believed, that women should probably not preach and definitely shouldn't be lead pastors. This question about the image of God on me led to new information that helped me see the scriptures which had seemed so clear in a new light. All of a sudden, my map was re-drawn, my theology shifted, and I now embrace the idea and the practice of women in church leadership roles.
About a year ago I began to sense the Lord leading me back to school. I had planned to attend graduate school from the time I began my sophomore year in undergrad, but I was either not in a place where I could move forward or I was unsure what to pursue. As I asked the Lord for guidance, I realized that a new place on my map was now available. Looking back I reflected that if I had been a man I think I would have wanted to become a pastor. Might the Lord be leading me to seminary and full-time pastoral ministry?
Through prayer and seeking counsel, the Lord confirmed the path.
I am now one semester (three classes) into a Master's of Divinity degree (32 classes) and I will ring in the New Year preaching at a church in my husband's hometown.
Here's to new things.
P.S. A book I read that introduced me to this new perspective was Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist, which I highly recommend. In fact, I may have given it to my 17-year-old niece for Christmas :).