I always love the subtle, but significant shift that can come in the meaning of words by simply substituting one letter for another. A horse can become a house, a mower can mow lower, while you may lack the luck to lick a lock (whatever that might mean…) This morning as I was preaching I was suddenly aware how much fun I was having being a Bible word nerd and a Greek geek and I realized how easy it would be for me to just keep on talking and talking and talking. Discretion being the better part of valor, I decided to wrap it up and sit down, but I was overwhelmed by how much fun I have getting up in front of people and sharing what I learn, know, and think I know, about the Bible, God, and our Christian faith. My nerdiness is my neediness.
And I am living in a dangerous environment where many people are being very kind and supportive about my preaching and teaching. (I think back to Sally Field accepting her Oscar for Norma Rae, gasping incredulously, “they like me, they really like me!”) It is a very dangerous thing to encourage a talker who already loves talking too much. And I think the months of COVID restriction have amplified everyone’s desires to connect. Talkers are ready to talk more, listeners are ready to listen more, but we’re not always in the same place at the same time.
I love teaching what I learn. I often volunteer to teach something I am less familiar with, just for the challenge of learning enough to have something of value to offer to others. I just finished reading my 168th of 2021. I read, on average, two books every three days, and often wish I had more time to read. Nerd. Geek. Dweeb. Proud of it. I often wonder what other people do with their time, especially when I meet with people who tell me they don’t read at all (books, anyway). My mind swirls constantly with new ideas, old information, different perspectives on both, and triggers to make me think about things completely unrelated to what I am reading. Poetry, politics, theology, mystery, science, economics, leadership, spirituality, drama, biblical commentary, graphic novels – I am also one of the most eclectic readers I know, intentionally reading things I believe I will disagree with before I even crack the cover.
I don’t recommend this for anyone else, nor do I judge others who tell me they think so much reading is a royal waste of time. Okay, to be honest, I do judge others who say they have no time to read or colleagues who tell me proudly that they haven’t read a book since graduating seminary, as if this is a fine achievement. I am biased; I think reading is important. I think lifelong, continuous learning is important. I think that authentic Christian discipleship demands a commitment to lifelong learning, and books are an essential part of this (as are relationships and active engagement with diverse people).
What struck me this morning is that beyond my insatiable hunger for reading and learning is a driving need to share what I learn with others. I don’t even greatly care what impact I am making; I speak persuasively, but people are going to listen and learn what they choose to, and I really have little control beyond what I communicate. While discernment has always been my primary spiritual gift, teaching and wisdom compete for second place, and I feel most “in the zone” when the three are working together. I just love “stirring the pot” with new or different ways of looking at things.
I am in heaven at People’s UMC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBZIao0a-NE); I cannot imagine a more open or interested group of people. If my preaching is turning people off, they aren’t telling me. But people who are enjoying my teaching and preaching are so kind and generous. They’d better watch out. I am having too much fun, and they may end up sorry they are so encouraging!