STUDYING THE DIRECTIONS

One of the gifts that my wife and I bought for our son on his birthday this week was a trampoline (or—as he says “a jumpoline!”). Now, my father is a very capable custom-build contractor by trade and I’m not completely without the ability to read directions and make sense out of them— together we ought to be able to read directions and put this thing together in short order. At first we began to size up the project and see if we could assemble the frame without reading the directions. We had the general idea, but the details just weren’t coming together. Before long we began to say things like, “Does this whatchyadoodle go on the inside or the outside?” “Is this supposed to be loose?” “What do you think this piece is for?” And so I read the directions. They didn’t make much sense.

As always happens in a small town, friends drive by your place and stop to chat if they see you out in the yard. “Is it supposed to look like that?”, one asked. “I just put one of these together not too long ago—the legs on mine were a whole lot longer.” And, of course, if you’re trampolining, this is an important consideration.

Knowing I missed something in my reading, I went back to the directions and they still weren’t as helpful as I would have liked. So I read them again. And I looked at the frame. And I read. And I looked. And I compared. And we talked. And I read some more. I read the whole booklet, looked at all the pictures, and thought, and thought, and thought…and then it began to make sense.

Life is like… a trampoline frame (what, did you think I was going to say, a box of chocolates”?) We think we can assemble it on our own, but the more we try we realize we’re not as put together as we think we are. And when we reach that point, someone hands us a Bible and says,”Read the direction manual.” And you begin to read. BUT, the more we read, the more we won-der if we’re building the same thing that this book is describing. Frustratingly, the manual doesn’t always seem to be much help!

Sometimes reading is not enough. I read the instructions, but, I needed more than a cursory reading. I actually had to study them. “What’s this little symbol in the diagram?” “Why does it say it this way?” “I know it looks like it goes that way, but the instructions say this…” I actually had to read the whole thing and come to know the whole process; continually compare the parts list, the diagrams, as well as the written instructions to one another and to the frame on the ground be-fore me— then I began to develop a picture in my mind of the finished project and the process that was going to get us there. Study! What do you know! The book had the answers, even if I had to give some effort to understanding them.

I know many of us try to read our Bibles, but are we willing to wrestle with the text—even when it’s not making sense yet—until it begins to be clearer? Are we willing to ask others’ opinions and hear their counsel? Are we willing to not give up just because there’s difficulty in unearthing some of Scripture’s answers? Let’s study our Bible!

Levi Sisemore, Minister 37th Street Church of Christ, Snyder, Texas

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