Making it personal

Tales from the Unending Story

September 8, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 19
Joshua Penfold | Columnist
(Photo by Rod Long/Unsplash)

Occasionally, if my wife Rebecca doesn’t get home when I was expecting her, my mind will become morbidly creative.

I mustn’t be the only one who has “daymares” of their spouse dying in a car accident. Selfishly, I must admit I spend less time focusing on the details of the accident and more time on the repercussions of her death. I play out the grief I would experience, the heartache of parenting alone, the financial consequences, or whether I could fathom remarrying.

Then, somewhere down this dark and disheartening road, I get interrupted by the arrival of my very alive wife, oblivious that her 30-minute detour has caused me moderate emotional strife.

Perhaps a little melodramatic, but you get the point.

Enter poor unfortunate Ezekiel and his wife. Amid all the other creative and tangible ways God has used Ezekiel to portray to Israel messages of destruction, sinfulness and judgment, God is now going to use Ezekiel’s wife as the next prophetic metaphor.

Many of the prophets have their work and family lives inextricably bound together. Hosea marries a known seductress for the purpose of using her unfaithfulness as an image to draw upon in his prophecies. The names of Isaiah’s children become the prophecy to Israel, while Jeremiah is not to have children as part of his prophetic word from God.

Ezekiel joins the ranks of mixing personal and professional when God tells him: “I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead” (Ezekiel 24:16-17).

My heart breaks for Ezekiel. For all who wish God would speak to you, take warning: Those prophets who heard from God did not live easier, more comfortable or reassuring lives because they heard from God.

What struck me most was the fact that the Scriptures were created not out of abstract objective ideas but were enfleshed in the personal lives of the prophets. The message was tangible and relatable. The message was a story with a place, a time and a context.

When I began writing for this column, I was encouraged to focus on the places where my reflections intersected with my personal life. The editors liked how I used elements of my life to help me to connect with, and relate to, the Scriptures. It is called “Tales from the Unending Story,” recognizing that the story of God is interwoven throughout Scripture, but it extends beyond that and into all of history, into my life and your life.

Our lives then interact and intertwine with the stories of Scripture. All of our stories are in God and are part of the unending story of God.

My reflections use my life to help me better understand the story of God. This is similar to the ways that the prophets used their lives to help the people around them understand the story and message of God.

I’m not attempting to claim that my writing is prophetic in the same way, but if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts that are open, we will find that God is, in fact, already using our stories, both joyous and painful, to help us more fully enter into the biblical story, God’s story, the grand unending story. But we need to do the important work of stopping, reflecting and meditating on the biblical writings and on our own lives.

Although I desire to deepen my relationship with God through these practices, I still don’t wish for Ezekiel’s job.

Joshua Penfold (penfoldjoshua@gmail.com) loves the bewildering, bizarre, yet beautiful Bible.

Read more Tales from the Unending Story:
Discovering my dross
False false prophets
Whoever has a nose, let them smell
Matters of life and death
Like an adult on a spinning teacup

(Photo by Rod Long/Unsplash)

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