Jan Johnson

Wisbit - October 2016

18 Inch Gap from Head to Heart: I Know but I Don’t Do

We know it’s a good idea to eat well, to read better books, to love our dog the way he loves us. We would say we believe these things, but we don’t always do them. That’s often called the “18 inch gap that extends from the head (mind) to the heart (I wanna do it!).” We listen to podcasts and sermons about attitudes to let go of, habits to replace, and character qualities to take shape. We agree. But so often nothing changes.

Meeting God in ScriptureThat’s because the requested change somehow comes from outside us rather than as a desire welling up from within us. The change may even be imposed on us from the outside by a doctor or a professor. But when we want this change with everything we’ve got, we do what it takes to make it happen. We forget, but then we commit and start again because we want it.

I have found that being told what the Bible says and even reading it for myself doesn’t usually bring about change. That’s because I have read it in a mechanical way - as if an idea is being imposed upon me from without. What makes me want to change is when (usually in conversation with Jesus), I am invited into something and let myself be “wooed” into seeing that this is the best possible way. Sometimes this happens as I see Jesus do it in a Gospel passage (and usually followed up by some unsuspecting Christ-follower who does it too).

It’s all relational then. I see God inviting me, showing me, helping me desire to want to do it. I know I’m being reeled in, and it’s OK. For example, I may become mesmerized by Jesus’ story about a “loser” in society reaching out to help someone (a “Samaritan”). Then I see how the director at the Samaritan Center (a drop in center for the homeless) does it so easily. I love Jesus and I love her. Deep inner goodness is contagious! In fact, I believe that spiritual transformation is caught as much as taught.

The primary way I “catch” these things from Jesus is by meditating on Scripture - not reading it to get to the bottom of the page and fulfill today’s obligation.  But when I “see” Jesus filled with so much compassion for a widow with no son (no means of support, doomed to be a slave or prostitute) that he barges into a funeral uninvited and talks to the corpse (the deceased son). That’s wild enough, but then the corpse sits up and talks back to him. Who knew?

In Scripture meditation, we “see” and “hear” these things happening. We feel the feelings of the bystanders: the crowd’s outrage at the interruption (How dare he?), the disciples’ embarrassment (What is he doing this time?), the woman’s pique, stunned in her grief. But it all turns to astonishment. I can see the mother’s face when Jesus hands her son back to her, alive and well (Luke 7:11-17, pp. 209ff).

Maybe I step out a little more. Maybe I quit hesitating. Maybe I stop standing there saying, Should I? or Shouldn’t I? God’s compassion, justice and wisdom are contagious, and I’m so blessed to get in the way of that very good infection every time I’d like to meditate on Scripture.

Hoping that you would like to get started doing that or have more adventures doing it, I sat down and compiled a whole bunch of meditation exercises I’ve led over the years. It was fun meditating on the passages; it was fun writing them down; and now it’s fun sharing them. If that interactive life with Jesus that changes you forever is what you want, be blessed.  Enjoy: Meeting God in Scripture.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson



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