Read part 5 of this series here
In the Wizard of Oz, homesick Dorothy trudges around the Land of Oz for days with her motley band of friends in search of a way to get back to Kansas and Auntie Em. Not until her wanderings come to a disappointing end in the Emerald City does she discover that the ruby slippers she has been wearing since her first moments in Oz possess the power to take her home. She only has to click her heels.
Perhaps one of the most tragic problems women have with theology is when we fail to connect it with what is happening (or has happened) in our lives. It is a problem that, oddly enough, surfaces often in women who describe themselves as avid lovers of theology. They find theology fascinating and jump at the chance to attend a theology class or join in a deep theological discussion. Some of them have been to seminary. Yet privately many of these women are just as defeated and despondent as women who only have a smattering of theology. They wander through life like homesick Dorothy in Oz, unaware that the theology they are wearing so prominently could make a difference in the problems that are getting them down.
An elementary school teacher once told me she couldn’t get enough theology. She pored over theology books in her spare time and talked late into the night with friends who were studying too. At the same time, she was deeply depressed over changes in her life. Her roommate (who was also her dearest friend) had just announced her engagement and that she would, immediately after the wedding, move overseas with her new husband. She dreaded the departure of her friend, the breakup of their apartment, and the search for a new roommate. She couldn’t help feeling left behind—watching God move someone else’s life forward when hers seemed to be in reverse. I was listening to her saga (commiserating because of my own struggles) when it dawned on her that the things she had been studying about God had everything to do with her present struggle. It was an eye-opener for us both; it was the first time it had occurred to either of us that what we were learning ought to make a difference now.
Simply knowing a lot of theological ideas, no matter how orthodox and sound they are, will never turn us into great theologians. Theology isn’t really theology for us until we live it. Not until we learn to make explicit connections between what we know about God and the race we are running will we taste the transforming power of our theology. Fixing our eyes on Jesus means reminding ourselves of all that he is to us now. He brings meaning to our routines and energises us to tackle the difficult tasks at hand. Fixing our eyes on Jesus gives us hope to offer disheartened husbands and hurting friends, and the wisdom we need to raise children who will fix their eyes on him too. The battle-weary mother who fixes her eyes on Jesus and reassures herself that nothing can stop God from accomplishing his good purposes finds the strength to go the distance with her wayward child whose heart seems hopelessly hardened. Knowing he has marked out all the days of our lives for our good and his glory fills the elderly widow’s humdrum days with purpose, meaning, and value. Recalling the depth of his love, the lonely rejected wife and the despairing single know they are treasure in his sight. Dr. J. I. Packer writes, “He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment therefore, when His care falters.”6
The runner’s theology goes straight to her feet. She makes sure it does by connecting what she is learning about God with the race he has called her to run. She fixes her eyes on Jesus and views the details of her life through what she knows to be true of him. This is when theology ceases to be merely intellectual and begins to transform our lives.
6. James I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, III.: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 37.
Taken from When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. Copyright (c) 2001 by Carolyn C. James. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
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Carolyn Custis James (BA, Sociology; MA, Biblical Studies) thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organisations. She is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, blogs on www.whitbyforum.com and Huffington Post / Religion, and is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.