Speak for Yourself

We do a little bit of celebrating and laughing, with a bit of eye rolling thrown in, each time we pass this sign. It sits on the side of I-70 as you exit Kansas and enter Colorado.  Whoever is not driving is tasked with snapping this photo to text to our family to announce that we have arrived!  Depending on whose driving- and thus which warp factor the truck is currently experiencing- some photos are harder to capture than others.  My husband took this one.

We celebrate because we know our road trip is almost complete and we’ve reached one of our favorite destinations.  We laugh and roll our eyes because the drab brown and white sign announces we’ve finally arrived in “Colorful Colorado”.  It seems like the sign is not doing Colorado justice, you know?  It seems like it should be a bit bolder and more colorful as it makes its announcement.

In life mandated by COVID-19, there has been time to be less busy and more thoughtful.  One thought leads to another and I was dreaming of getting away for a bit.  My thoughts naturally drifted to Colorado and I laughed when I thought of this sign.  It occurred to me perhaps the sign is not a woeful understatement, but rather a subtle encouragement.  The sign is stating just the facts.  It’s announcing a welcome to Colorado and a proclamation that Colorado is Colorful.  Perhaps it’s then up to the reader to let Colorado speak for itself.

Colorful Colorado speaking for itself in Cimarron, CO. Fall of 2020.

In our current world, many of us want information and we want it now.  We don’t want the entire story, we just want the highlights.  You know, “Get to the point, already”!  What need is there to read a book, or an article, or even listen to 1000 words, if we can get the synopsis in 140 characters on Twitter, in a Facebook post, or an instant message alert? Our society seems addicted to soundbites verse true knowledge.  Our devices constantly bombard us with ever changing “facts”.

Early in my career, I was specifically asked a question during a meeting and someone in a position of authority interrupted and answered for me.  That interruption made me feel angry and sad.  It’s a strong memory even today.  I would have much rather have spoken for myself.

With so much noise in our world, so many opinions and commentary, I wonder who isn’t being allowed to speak for themselves?  Perhaps many of us, in one way or another, are being stifled by whoever can speak the loudest.  How often do we listen to someone speak for themselves before we listen to someone else tell us what that person said, or worse, meant?

For myself, I think the best way to know about someone, who they really are, and what they mean, is to ask them.  A friend of mine is Catholic.  I am Lutheran.  Over our 20+ year friendship we have often discussed our faith.  Yet, after all these years, he is still Catholic and I am still Lutheran.  We have not tried to convert one another, but we have learned a lot about one another by listening.  Our friendship has grown out of the respect we have shown one another.  One day he commented how he appreciated our conversation because it drives him crazy when people tell him what Catholics believe instead of just asking him what he believes.  He wants to speak for himself.

Often, I hear my faith echoing in my photographs.  Many of them speak to me in a way.  I cannot help but think about my God when I am trying to capture a glimpse of his amazing creation in some small way.

Owl Creek Pass, CO. “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”—The Lord, your Redeemer.  Isaiah 44:24 (ESV)

Jen Wilken states, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”1 That really resonates with me.  We must have knowledge of a person, a place, or an idea before we can form any kind of opinion, certainly one as deep as love.  Love is born out of relationship.   I have had a relationship with my husband for 36 years.  We started as friends, then spouses, then parents, now empty nesters.  Each year I know him better than the year before and I love him more.  We’ve invested ourselves in our relationship.  If someone told me something Eric said, I would immediately know if that was true or not because I know Eric.

There are many ways I’ve come to know more about God- his creation, his church, his Sacraments.  Yet, all of that starts with his Word alone.  God reveals himself in Scripture.  As we read his Word, we are essentially investing the time- and the respect- to hear God speak for himself.  As young Samuel said in 1 Samuel 3:10, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Yet, sometimes, I don’t understand the Words written in Scripture.  My Pastor has encouraged me to keep going, that we often wrestle with the words.  True enough.  Sometimes, we even wrestle to open the book!  But each time we open the book, and read with intention, we get the astounding privilege to know Almighty God a little better.  We wrestle, we pray, we seek those we trust to help with our understanding.  Only when we know what God says about himself, can we know him, love him, be more like him.  Real relationship is built on time spent with one another.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Moses, the man of God. Psalm 90:12 (ESV)
“For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the word, in the things that have been made.” –Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, Romans 1:20 (ESV)

  1. Jen Wilken, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014)

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