Updated: Mar 17, 2022
A few days ago, I was teaching my 15-year-old daughter how to drive our car. She recently received her learner's permit and is accumulating some "behind the wheel' training. I am happy to report that she is progressing well. But this experience encouraged me to reflect back on my own "learner's permit days." In my time of contemplation, I realized that I take my current driving abilities for granted. I had almost forgotten the anxiety and uneasiness I had felt when I was a new driver.
This reflection has been good for me. It has given me greater patience and appreciation for the stressful situation my daughter is in. It has also reminded me that humans aren't born with the ability to drive automobiles. We need to learn how to do it, and it takes regular practice to get better at it.
In the same way, a person isn't born with an understanding of the Bible. We may hear someone paraphrase or even quote it, but that's not the same as reading it and contemplating it for ourselves. Perhaps the individual who only gets his understanding of the Scriptures from a Sunday morning sermon is like a backseat passenger--he enjoys a bit of the scenery, but he's ultimately captive to wherever the driver wants to take him.
Contemplating the Bible on your own is like being the driver of the car. Seen from this perspective, it may be possible to enumerate a few of the parallels between driving a car and reflecting on Scripture. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are five similarities. Notice how you can fill in the blanks below with either the words, "drive," or "interpret Scripture."
We aren't born with the ability to _______ we have to learn it.
Initially, it's appropriate to gain knowledge from others and to observe how they ______.
Eventually we should want to _____ on our own, without being dependent on others.
If we want to gain real competence, we have to _____ on a regularly basis.
Ultimately, our goal should be to _____ in order to help other people, not just to benefit ourselves.
I'm sure there are other parallel statements that one could make in addition to these. But in terms of our biblical understanding, these five sentences can help us reflect on our level of competence. A good place to begin is to honestly consider whether we are stuck at point two in the list above. In other words, are we dependent on others to spoon feed us Bible knowledge? If not, do we desire to be more mature (point 3)? And do we regularly set aside time to reflect on Scripture (point 4)? Even if we study our Bible on a daily basis, are we doing this for our own personal aggrandizement and pride, or are we using our understanding of the Scriptures to bless others?
As I teach my daughter, Ellie, how to drive, I don't assume that she should know how to maneuver her car from the moment she sits in the driver's seat. I recognize that it is going to take time and practice for her to gain competence at driving. But I also desire and expect that she will put in the effort to get better and better at operating an automobile. And as she becomes a more skilled driver, she will not only be able to explore so many new places, but she will eventually be able to carpool with friends, chauffeur her future children, and, hopefully, drive out to visit her aging father.
I think this is essentially what our Heavenly Father is asking of us regarding our relationship with the Bible. God wants us to read Scripture so that we can get to know Him better. He also wants us to share its principles so that we can minister to others with increased resolve and greater clarity. In short, be a spiritual driver! Don't be a backseat passenger.
(Photo credit: William Krause via Unsplash)