In this episode John and Gregg recap their discussion from last episode with long-time listener Anna.
John explains that he felt greatly encouraged to hear Anna’s story, despite the fact that Anna has experienced setbacks and that there certainly has been no “happy ending” in it for Anna.
Gregg also values the discussion with Anna and describes her story as “true to life,” particularly in the sense that he and John have had so many interactions with Anna over the past several years and yet the experiences that Anna highlights and the perspectives that she offers have a consistency that Gregg believes offers them a high degree of credibility.
Upon reflection John explains that he resonates most with the fact that Anna does not present a “success story” about her relationship with God but rather describes a relationship filled with various successes and failures, connections and disconnections (with both God and others). So despite the differences that John sees between his own experiences and those of Anna, John seems a number of commonalities.
John is also intrigued by Gregg’s notion that we may experience God in a certain way but only for a certain time. This seems to run counter to the typical understanding that we experience God in the same way all the time. Gregg sees this as an excessive focus on “individual relationship” with God. So in Gregg’s view God is not trying to “win us” at any cost but is rather trying to advance God’s kingdom, and within that goal God is seeking all of humanity.
When John wonders about a Bible verse claiming that God is “the same today and forever” Gregg demurs: he objects to the way in which Christians gather a hodge-podge or pastiche of Bible verses to support arguments or simply as the basis for worship music. In Gregg’s view this is evidence that Christians lack any full, rich sense of “narrative” concerning God and instead have settled for a collection of soundbites that do not present a coherent story of idea but rather stimulate and / or reflect our emotional responses.
So where Gregg sees these soundbites—even the more “crescendo” soundbites related to Jesus life and death (and implications thereof)—as being detached from the larger biblical story, this necessarily results in these crescendos losing the force, beauty, and subtlety that they truly possess when situated in their proper context.
Regarding Anna’s experience of losing her sense of closeness with God, Gregg explains that his sense of proximity with God is renewed through study (of the bible / biblical research). Further, Gregg continues to be amazed by the findings of his research that continue to show the primacy of God establishing and advancing God’s Kingdom, even as Gregg’s own experience of asking for God’s direction at a pivotal moment (and having many people praying for direction at this moment) resulted in what Gregg sensed was God indicating to Gregg to “be about his work” and was not a direct reply to the matter / situation being prayed for!
So Gregg highlights the two extremes to be avoided: either thinking that I am “in the middle” of God’s map or “completely off” of God’s map. Further, Gregg wants to be careful not to endorse notions that are superstitious when it comes to believing in God / being a Christian. So superstitions are formulaic responses where certain actions generate certain responses. But God is not like that.