Last Fall I grabbed my husband’s DSLR camera and the keys to our car. We live in a little rural town, so it took me a whole two minutes to drive far away from civilization and down a dirt road. Leaves were changing colors and the sun was about to set. It was the perfect evening to learn about photography. I zoomed in, and in, and in, until I could closely see the cuts and curves of a blade of wild grass. Everything behind it blurred and blended into the background. Chiggers gnawed at my ankles as I circled around the shot, trying to capture the desired hue of orange and magenta bursting through the empty spaces in the frame.
After I had spent a good thirty minutes with the lens zoomed in as far it could go, I felt a little disoriented. My eyes were blurry and I was out of balance. I was learning to focus on one blade of grass and as I started to think it might look nice hanging on a wall, I slowly began to zoom the lens out and realized I was completely missing it. As I zoomed further and further out I began to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. I was so focused on the detail in that tiny blade of grass, that I was missing the whole picture.
Most of the time, I function this way. I’m a detail person. I get lost in the particularities that make up one individual tree that I quickly lose sight of the forest. Last night I was sitting around a table with a group of fabulous people. We had all read the book of Matthew the days leading up to our study. We digressed about tassels and phylacteries (Matthew 23:5), and before we knew it we were zoomed pretty far in to the most obscure and quite possibly trivial details that we missed the story.
I don’t know about you, but I fall into this trap more than I’d like to admit. Growing up in church, I was awarded for memorizing Bible verses. I’m pretty good at the essentials, John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 to name a few. But how often do we read John 3:16 followed by 3:17? We tend to memorize verses with no regard to context. We learn passages outside of their chapter, removed from their book, apart from the Bible.
We create theology, doctrine and dogma without the whole of Scripture in mind. We zoom in so far on one particular passage or verse that we neglect to read it within its book. We develop arguments and articulate positions based on a handful of verses, removed from their context, their book and without their place within God’s greater story. We obsess and deconstruct and analyze to the point that we completely miss the point. When we do this, we risk missing the grandeur of God’s movement, power and redemptive work taking place in the lives of people all around us. And that movement, power and redemptive work is not bound to the lens and focus of our eyes, God is not contained to our frame.
First published on the Evangelical Covenant Church's Commission for Biblical Gender Equality Blog.