I’ve been working on a Bible study focusing on the spiritual seasons of life, so I’ve particularly been sensitive to quotes, writings, and thoughts concerning seasons. I came across one I particularly liked. It reflected faith through seasons, and I decided to dig further. I looked at the book on Amazon and was even more excited, seeing the entire book seemed to address some of the very issues and topics I was addressing. I looked for the best deal and clicked to order.
Several days later, I received the book, just in time for a long trip. Fantastic! I’d get to dig in during the long flight. It was a beautiful book with colored pages and graphics throughout. I was about to get comfortable – or so I thought.
As I began to read on the plane, I noticed God’s name being used in odd places and ways. I also noticed other references to spiritual “authority” – not God’s name – being used interchangeably. Hmm. I try to always read with discernment, but I’ll admit I can get lazy when I believe the author has done his or her homework. On the other hand, my antennae had been alerted, and I proceeded with caution and curiosity.
To say I didn’t find much material to use is an understatement, but I still learned a lot. The use of language was wonderful at times and spurred some seasonal images that made my imagination and memories soar. I thought of experiences I might want to share in my writings and questions I might want to ask others for input.
I didn’t agree with the spiritual content. It was inconsistent, except in the consistency of taking small pinches of a variety of beliefs and mixing it together for unrecognizable faith stew. There was a bit of truth mixed in, but just enough to potentially make it look like truth and smell like truth. The problem is something that looks like truth and smells like truth isn’t necessarily truth. It might also look like falsehood and smell like falsehood! We have to separate the two. That’s discernment.
Originally, a quote caught my attention. As I continued to search more deeply, I continued to be impressed with what I thought I’d find in the book and how the book appeared when I opened up the shipping box. However, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a book by its quote. Anything can be taken out of context.
I’m not suggesting you need to have a complete understanding of an author’s works before quoting him or her. In fact, I don’t think that’s possible. A quote simply represents a snapshot of a person, idea, and moment. Of course, I don’t want to pull what seems to be an innocuous quote from a person I know it doesn’t represent at all. The person as a whole must be considered. However, you could quote me from twenty or ten years ago, and you wouldn’t be representing who I am or what I believe right now. You could take something out of context or distort it in a way that definitely doesn’t represent me. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of the quote.
I’ve posted quotes on Facebook and been chastised for sharing the words of someone of differing values or lifestyles.
“Why would you put the words of that person on your status? Don’t you know what they were involved in or what they stood for?”
The answer? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I can’t know the totality of anyone’s life, just like you can’t know the totality of mine. You can pull something out of a recent Bible study I’ve written, share it, and people might say, “Wow! What a great truth!” But someone from another time of my life might say, “Well, that doesn’t sound like the Susan I know, so I wouldn’t believe it.” You could also look at some early writings of mine from when I was desperately searching spiritually and gain more confusion than clarification.
A quote is just a snippet, a snapshot. It’s not the entire work. And it’s not the entire person.
What quotes are you using?
How are you being quoted?
If someone takes a snapshot of your life now, years ago, years from now, what will it say about you?
When all the snapshots of your life are put together, what will the title of the album be?
If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient? But who can refrain from speaking? Behold you have admonished many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? (Job 4:2-6)