If I told you only what I said, I would be giving you half the story.
Consider, for example, “You idiot! Get out of my way.”
It doesn’t actually tell you much, to consider what I said. If you don’t know who I said it to, you are left with a mystery.
If I say that to a cute toddler who happened to veer too near toward me as I was walking into a liquor store, you are left with the indication that I, at best, am a jerk.
On the other hand, if I mutter that quietly to myself when I am cut off, you might think I am a pretty ordinary guy. If I shout that because I have figured out the secret to saving somebody, and precious moments are ticking by, and maybe I won’t get “there” in time, you might even call that quote heroic.
Perhaps at the top of the list of “The most obvious statements ever made” is this: context matters.
What we are saying is important. But who we are saying it to? That is more important.
I serve in the Children’s ministry at the fantastic Fellowship Church, New England. The awesome directors of the ministry are having as watch a series of videos by Francis Chan. I am… ambivalent about Francis Chan. Sometimes he is a wee bit old-school, traditional, and black-and-white for my post modernist, emergent church sensibilities. A thing I am keenly aware of: sometimes the people I am most ambivalent about are the people I need most to hear from.
Last Sunday, we watched this video where Chan made a bunch of great points. But the one that I really carry with me is this:
When we pray, we ought to be really aware of just who we are praying to.
With out meaning to, with out being aware of it, I have been, for a while, just praying to pray. People more spiritually mature and experienced than me tell me I am supposed to. It makes me feel good, some times, to pray. The bible tells me that I am supposed to. And so I do.
But the thing is, Jesus is really clear about some things. One of them is that whenever we do things just because it seems like we are supposed to, whenever we get legalistic, whenever we go through the motions… we cheat ourselves.
I cheated myself.
I have been working hard, this week, as I pray, to be aware of the context. Context matters. Who we are talking to? That is as important as the words I say. And so my heart-felt prayers, the content matters. But also, the “person” I am addressing these prayers to? He matters to. At least as much. When I pray really thinking about the fact that I am praying to the creator of the universe, the artist who crafted my soul, my biggest fan and deepest lover…. This changes everything.