One of my biggest struggles in life is know-it-all-syndrome. I have always been headstrong. My mother recently dropped off a box at my house that she and my father found when they were doing a little spring-cleaning. The box was filled with things from my childhood. Third grade report cards, baby photos, kindergarten art projects and other similar things.
One of the funniest things in the box was a newsletter from the youth group of the church we attended when I was in high school. On the cover of the newsletter was an article entitled, “The Prez Sez” and it was a note from the president of the youth group: me. I remembered being “elected” but I thought it was during my senior year. However as I read further down, I realized that at the time I had just finished my freshmen year. You can see this newsletter and a few of these things from my box of childhood memories here:
After reading more the memories came flooding back. I remember actively campaigning for the youth group presidency as a precocious little 15-year-old against one of my good friends who was a senior and much wiser than I was. He did not campaign; he was the obvious choice. But what I lacked in wisdom and experience I more than made up for in persistence and I won the presidency. Not to brag, but I also won reelection two more times. I may or may not have been unopposed in those following elections, but that’s neither here nor there…
For as long as I can remember I have been a know-it-all. My favorite question as a small child was “why?” because I was very curious, but I also wanted to be convinced that your idea was better than mine. I have loved to debate since I was a child, and it has usually gotten me into more trouble than anything.
As I grew up and started encountering much deeper and more challenging questions about the nature and character of God, I again thought I knew it all. I remember having a debate about God with a really close friend of mine when I was in college. The same friend I beat out for youth group president. The same friend that graduated college with honors and was, by that time, finishing up his masters at the Duke Divinity School with top marks.
He asked me if I had ever heard of the story of Elijah. I knew the name, but I admitted that my knowledge on the subject ended there. He said that I should go read about Elijah because I might be looking for God in the wrong places. This is what I read that day from 1 Kings 19:
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”
Most of us have a tendency to look for God in bold things like wind and earthquakes, fire and a huge booming voice from the sky. We want a sign, a miracle, a shot from the clear blue. I believe this scripture from 1 Kings was written to show us that God almost always shows up in ways that are unexpected.
Since that day when I read about Elijah, almost everything I know and believe about God has changed. Not because of what I read, but because I started to approach God, church, and eventually seminary with an open mind instead of a head filled with know-it-all assumptions.
Starting this Sunday and continuing through the end of August we are going to experience a sermon series called “Unexpected.” In this series we are going to strive to meet God in unexpected ways and create intentional space for God to show up in unexpected ways. Everything about these three weeks of worship will be very different, very thought provoking and very fun!
I don’t know if you are like me and also suffer from know-it-all-syndrome, but I have learned that all of us, as human beings, can fall victim to habits and routines. We sit in the same pew each week, we pray similar prayers most of the time and we think about God in the same way, through the same lens of understanding. We all do this.
The framework of my understanding about God was challenged that day when my friend asked me to read the story of Elijah. I hope that you will come to these next three weeks of worship services and that you come with an open mind. We are going to challenge ourselves to look for God in unconventional ways, and I believe that God will show up in a powerful and very unexpected manner.
Have a wonderful week my friends,