Man is a being in search of meaning.
There is truth.
The base of truth is formulaic. It is a definition. It is equalities and inequalities, and all manner of symbols you never use after school ends. It is facts and lists. Accurate descriptions and directions based on desired outcomes.
But meaning is something else. You can give your wife a list of definitive truths about how, exactly, you have come to believe she has the most beautiful smile on the planet. Maybe you could include a chart, or even some follow-up direction on how to use this information going forward. And it would be truth. But if you read her this:
“Intoxicating, breath taking of her smile
Tear stopper, heart healer of her smile
The caring, kindness of her heart- keep’s her smile
Her vividly, charming and magical smile- intoxicates us
Smile of passion and pleasing fulfillments
To know her smile, her charmer’s
Is to treasure it
The caring, kindness of her heart, intoxicate, breath taking, tear stopper, heart healer –
Of your smile, ”
(by Vasco M. Resendes)
It would be truth wrapped in, what I can best describe as, meaning. It’s the point at which the truth intersects with your heart, and begins to mean more than what the written words are capable of describing. A list verses a poem. Truth verses meaning.
Another example would be that I could tell you that when I went to the beach this weekend, my wife and I:
1. Drove for 2 hours
2. Got gelato ice cream and walked down the strip for 45 min
3. Went onto the beach, started with a swim, threw a tennis ball around, then read a book, while wearing SPF 1,999 sunblock
4. Ate dinner, grabbed coffee to keep us awake and drove 2 hours back home
But what would be missed was the smiles and laughs and frustrations and “I’m sorries” and jokes and hand-holding that made the 2 hours on the road feel like an instant.
How refreshed and alive the ice cream made us feel as it shook us from hot to cold with each delectable bite.
How being on the beach with my girl and a good book felt like it was all any man could ever need or has ever needed to be content in this world.
How going from a quiet beach to a busy restaurant brought us back to earth.
I think, we, as communicators of Gods word, can get wrapped up in the seductive simplicity of revealing truth to our audience without any meaning. This really sank in for me last week when our lead pastor at Crossroads was giving a sermon about David and his “big mistake”. It all was going very well. Every point was well executed. The story was both humorous and poignant and the truth was clear… Then he read this short bit of poetry.
It wasn’t just the words. It was David’s heart, ripped open and staring us down across the auditorium.
He stopped reading early on in this poem about David dealing with his betrayal, but I couldn’t stop. Reading on, David lamented:
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again!
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Now, Whether David ever planned for others to read these thoughts or not, it makes the event real for all of us. There were the facts- the words. But when we see David’s vulnerability and his necessity in resorting to art to express feelings, inexpressible; it is impossible to ignore. It makes him, God, and the whole relationship real! In order for anyone to really understand a relationship and what it means to you, it takes vulnerability, and often, art. This is why, when the “disciple whom Jesus loved” wrote a narrative about his savior and friend he began with prose; why Moses, who chronicled so much history, slipped into and out of poetic styling like a Rogers and Hammerstein musical production. Sometimes to explain life – real life and real living – that is what we must do. If I want to teach you how the Bible is a sort of self help book; How it can give you 7 steps to do these, or accomplish that, then that teaching formula really works! I have proven it works. So, have Andy Stanley and a host of other incredible communicators. But, if I really want to show you how much God has meant to me, then, by God, let me cut my chest open and show you! It isn’t pretty. It isn’t orderly. And it most certainly isn’t formulaic. But what relationship is?
The first bit of poetry we find in our Bibles is written by Moses, about creation. Why? Because perhaps, there weren’t as much steps to living a better life hidden there, but something Moses was trying to convey about the power of that scene. The second time is when Adam first meets Eve (cue Barry White) because how do you write down an accurate description of a man meeting his soul-mate after being lonely for hundreds of years! ( ps- yes the Bible says he was lonely. He hadn’t sinned. he walked with God but he was lonely. Being lonely isn’t a crime I guess). The biggest poem he wrote was Job. Not many formulas there. But it sure is a gut-wrenching tale, eh?
There is truth.
There is meaning.
Without one, there is no God.
Without the other, there is no life.
Let us experience both.