Unfolding Enough: Never Misunderstood

Each week in Unfolding Enough we explore the way God unfolds enough in our lives through the lens of Faith’s Five Building Blocks. Through spiritual exercises (Connection), prayer (Conversation), Bible study (Curiosity), and sharing our lives with others (Community) we focus on how living in a Land of Not Enough impacts our relationships with God and those in our sphere of influence (Story).

Through the study of Esther we recognize there is no right or perfect time to enter God’s presence. We don’t have to be fixed up or flawless to go before the King. Every moment is the right moment to be in God’s presence because we are daughters (and sons) of the Most High. Royalty. And when we truly get it. When we come to a right understanding of who God is and who we are in Him there’s no reason to fear His presence.

We’ve packed our bags and headed to the Kingdom we heard tell of while living in the Land of Not Enough. A place where striving and doing is not the point and will never be the reason we are loved. We’ve made the move into the King’s domain but carried along with us the suitcase of feeling misunderstood. Yes, we are free to enter the King’s presence. Yes, we are worthy. But what if we still don’t fit in?

So we live on the outskirts of the Kingdom. Attempting to do the best we can. Living the life we see others living and trying to keep a low profile. Hiding all the “real” stuff about ourselves in hopes we will not draw any unnecessary attention. Because if the King really knew me, the true me, He might not understand. No one in the former land understood, why will this be any different?

There is a moment for most of us when we realize we can enter God’s presence, but what then? How should we act? What is appropriate? Is it possible God and I might have a misunderstanding?

This week we opened our misunderstood baggage and explored the idea that we are never misunderstood by God.

Connection

Unfolding Enough is a building of truth much like algebra. Our first step was considering our feelings and attitude when we approach God’s presence and recognizing how living in the Land Of Not Enough skews our perception of Him and who we are before Him.

  • Were you more aware of His presence this week?
  • How did you respond?

The first connection we make with God is acknowledging and moving towards His presence. Which may leave us asking: What now?

We began our study with four quotes about being misunderstood.

Nowadays, saying what you really think can be a serious error since one risks being misunderstood.   

—Oscar Wilde

You have to put up with the risk of being misunderstood if you are going to try to communicate.     

—Edie Sedgwick

Hey there, weird kid in your high-top shoes
Sitting in the back of the class, I was just like you
Always left out, never fit in
Owning that path you’re walking in
Mr. Misunderstood
Mr. Misunderstood

—Eric Church

Is it so bad to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.     

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

We processed our experience of being misunderstood through the spiritual exercise of Journaling, writing down our thoughts and feelings, questions and desires.

  • Which quote spoke most to you? Why?
  • Did journaling help you process your thoughts about being misunderstood in your life?

What might not be apparent in the quotes is the development process that happens when we consider the basic drive to be understood.

Eric Church’s lyrics speak to every adolescent’s struggle to figure out who they are and what they want to be in the world. Yes, adolescence is a physical development, but there is a similar spiritual season in our walk of faith. We struggle to figure out who we are and who God is calling us to be in the world. Like the teen screaming, “You just don’t understand!” We begin to notice others may not understand us in the Kingdom either. Sharing our true selves becomes risky.

Eventually we come to the point when we consider what is safe to share with God. How we will act and be in God’s presence. Two paths stand before us. We can remain on the outskirts hiding who we are for fear of being misunderstood or we can take the risk trusting God never misunderstands.

Ralph Waldo Emerson asked the question, “Is it so bad to be misunderstood?” People will misunderstand us, but God never does.

Read 1Samuel 17:20-30

  • What was Eliab’s response when he saw his younger brother talking to the soldiers?
  • What did he say about David?

At first glance this seemed like an eldest sibling’s common response to the intrusion of a younger sibling. But Eliab’s cutting remarks about David’s heart revealed something deeper.

Eliab was there the day David was anointed by Samuel. He watched as David took what he thought should be his. Eliab was the oldest, and culture defined him as the one who should have been anointed. His outward appearance was the look of a worthy king. In his anger, Eliab attempted to remind David just who he was: a lowly shepherd out for a thrill.

Eliab’s presumptions about David’s heart is a picture of the way we too are viewed by others, even those closest to us.

Read 1Samuel 16:7

  • Why did Samuel think Eliab was the one to be anointed?
  • What was God’s response?

Like Samuel, we depend on what we see on the outside to determine our understanding of others and vice versa. With our skewed perception we think we understand someone and we wonder why they don’t understand us. This is the recipe for all the world’s misunderstanding. Our thoughts stir the ingredients and leaves a bad taste in our mouths. If we consume it long enough, we begin to wonder if being misunderstood might apply to God as well.

Conversation

The fear of presumptions and assumptions can take a toll on our prayer life. We find ourselves tucking away words, thoughts, and feelings we think God might misinterpret. Our conversations with God become stilted offerings of thanksgiving and meek requests for provision.

Our study of Jeremiah this week reveals a man who found it possible to express intense emotion and feeling without fear of misunderstanding.

Read Jeremiah 15:15-18

  • What state do we find Jeremiah in at this point in his ministry?
  • What emotions do you see?

In The Message, Jeremiah 15:18 reads:

You’re nothing, God, but a mirage, a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!

Jeremiah was angry, frustrated, confused, and he told God just what he thought. In the moment, he felt like all he endured — all the serving and talking and seeking — were for nothing. Jeremiah made it abundantly clear, this was not what he signed up for.

  • Have you ever found yourself praying like Jeremiah? Why?
  • What holds you back from being honest with God about how you’re feeling?
  • Are you ever worried God won’t understand?

Carol says:

Early in my walk with God, I remember pouring out my heart in prayer. Then when my words echoed through my mind I would think, “Wait! That sounded wrong… that’s not what I meant… that could be interpreted in a completely different way than I meant…”

Then I would be off on a non-stop explanation, set on a mission to put the right words and phrases together to really express what I was trying to say to Him. (Like the pagan prayers Jesus taught NOT to pray.) I worried God would take my prayer at face value. It caused a great deal of angst at times. I so didn’t want Him to misunderstand.

Now, I’m so thankful to know He not only hears my words but my heart too. And He knows what I need and want before I ask…

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:7-8 NIV

O Lord, You know… You understand… the very first words of Jeremiah’s prayer tell us he felt safe and secure in his relationship with God. He trusted God’s omniscience and reminded himself of God’s perfect knowledge. Jeremiah knew His God was big enough to handle his anger and feelings of abandonment.

In great desperation, Jeremiah poured out his emotions, and something beautiful followed.

Curiosity

If we are not careful we miss something important happening between Jeremiah 15:18 and verse 19. Imagine Jeremiah spent and poured out before God. He said all he can say, made it clear how he feels. Now what?

  • What does the space between these two verses reveal about Jeremiah?

We don’t see Jeremiah blow his top and walk away. Or run and hide for fear of what God will say or do. Jeremiah’s own record of his conversation with God — “Therefore this is what the Lord says…” — portrays a man willing to listen and endure whatever fallout is coming from God.

Read Jeremiah 15:19-20

  • What does God call Jeremiah to do first?
  • What is Jeremiah’s job to do next?
  • What is God going to do?

God first calls Jeremiah to repent for God knows anger left in the heart of man only grows roots of bitterness. He knows where anger leads when left to itself and He knows Jeremiah’s heart better than Jeremiah does.

But God doesn’t leave it there. He reminds Jeremiah of his job, his top priority, his calling. Repentance led the way for Jeremiah to remember what was most important. Finally, God promised Jeremiah he was not alone and never misunderstood. God was willing to provide exactly what Jeremiah needed to live out his call.

When we look at the original language of Jeremiah, God is asking Jeremiah to do exactly what He will do for him. Where most translations read “return” and “restore”, two different words, in Hebrew it is the same word in different forms. The Message paraphrase best reflects what’s happening in the original language:

Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.

The Hebrew word used can mean to return, turn back, refresh, restore (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

As Jeremiah listens to what God says in response to his tirade, we hear God saying in effect, “If you restore your right attitude, I’ll restore you.” Or maybe, “If you hit the refresh button on your heart, I’ll refresh you.” Refreshment was exactly what Jeremiah desired. After all, he accused God of being a dried up stream, a mirage.

Jeremiah had a choice to make. Remain in his self-righteous anger or receive what God said about his heart and repent.

We have the same choice when we approach God’s Word. When we prayerfully consider Scripture, God speaks to us and reveals things about us we don’t know or have been blind to.

Read Hebrews 4:12-13

  • How is God’s Word described?
  • What does it do?
  • How does God see us?

God reminds us in Hebrews we are still naked before Him. No matter how much we try to cover ourselves with self-justification, self-improvement, and self-righteousness, we are still exposed. His living, active, double-edged Word cuts right to the heart of the matter and reveals our blind spots.

When we approach God’s Word with a receptive humble spirit seeking authentic connection with Him, we discover the truth is we don’t even understand ourselves. We misunderstand our own hearts, which excel at self-deception.

Jeremiah knows God knows, therefore he sticks around to see what God has to say about all he’s feeling and perceiving. We need to take this lesson from Jeremiah to heart when our hearts are stirred beyond our ability to bear or cover up any longer.

God discerns exactly what’s going on and through His Word He reveals it to us. He is faithful to speak directly to our circumstances, show us our presumptions, and assure us we can trust He will never misunderstand us.

Community

Trusting God always understands our hearts enables us to grow a deep relationship with God and continue to do the work He calls us to do in our communities.

Let’s turn back to the story of David and Goliath.

Read 1Samuel 17:31-33

  • What limitations did Saul see in David?

With the world’s perspective Saul tried to persuade David to back away from the battle: You’re too young. You don’t have any war experience.

  • What limits does the world place on God’s work in our lives or in the lives of others today?

Often when we face something bigger than ourselves or hear about another’s plans, we reason and give advice according to the world’s perspective. We trust a more realistic view, a logical way that makes sense to our contemporary culture and times.

But David knew something Saul didn’t.

Read 1Samuel 17:34-37

  • Where did David get his training for battle?
  • In who did David place his trust?

Saul’s words did not deter David’s faith in God or cause him to shy away from what God was calling him to do in this community. He trusted God’s strength above his own and put his faith in the training he received while taking care of the sheep. The very thing his brother ridiculed him for was the fertile ground where the young warrior found battle experience.

David’s love for God grew exponentially in the company of sheep. He learned to trust God’s protection and provision in the face of lions and bears (See Psalm 23.). What others viewed as the lowliest of stations, David embraced. God used it to prepare David for life as a mighty warrior and king.

Read Luke 16:10-12

  • What does this teach us about the places God calls us to serve?
  • Where are you currently serving?
  • Do you view it as a place to grow closer to God and others?

It is doubtful David knew what all his years of tending sheep would prepare him to do. He just did what God called him to do, and trusted God understood and was faithful to protect and provide.

Every season in our lives is an opportunity to grow in our trust of God’s unlimited knowledge  and our love for those who haven’t put their faith in Him.

Like God’s Word, community can be a double-edged sword.

One side, not seeing beyond the unknowns, gives worldly advice and practical discouragement when we move out in faith. Not everyone, even among Believers, has the faith to be sure of what they do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

But the flipside of community encourages.

Read 1Thessalonians 2:13

  • What had the writers of the letter to the Thessalonians done for those they were writing to?
  • What were they thankful for? Why?

The faith-full speak gospel truth to those who will listen with hearts of faith. When words of faith are received and begin to work in the lives of those who have accepted them, the community of Believers is strengthened. And that is reason enough for constant thanks-giving!

The wonder is God uses both aspects of community to grow His people’s faith – those who understand and those who miss-understand.

In the parable of the weeds and the wheat, Jesus’s message is not to weed out those planted by the enemy because it might pull up the good grain too (Matthew 13:24-30). Both the encouragement of the faithful and the discouragement of naysayers right alongside one another offers potential to strengthen faith.

David had no idea Samuel’s words of anointing would bring him face to face with Goliath and set the stage for him to become the hero of Israel. Eliab’s taunts may have emboldened David to prove his older brother wrong. Iron sharpens iron. Faithful to faithful. Brother to brother. Believer to unbeliever.

Unknowns and unbelief. Both aspects of darkness God uses to strengthen the faith of His people and build His Kingdom through community.

Story

When we learn to trust God’s perfect understanding, we become free to be authentic with others.

Read 1Samuel 17:38-40

  • What did Saul do when he realized David would not back down?
  • How did the armor work for David?
  • What did David return to?

When David insisted on facing Goliath, it only made sense to Saul that a warrior would need armor. No one went to battle without protection or a weapon. Since David had neither, Saul offered his own. David gave it a shot. He willingly tried Saul’s way, but in the end it was a bad fit.

We must be mindful of the way God calls us to live out our story in the world. There are many who have gone before us. Many who have lived out their story and genuinely want us to do the same. But their armor will not be a good fit for us. It will only serve to weigh us down with heavy burdens we aren’t meant to carry.

  • How have you tried to live out your call like another?
  • Did it work for you?

Read Ephesians 2:8-10

Each of us are created in God’s image, but not in cookie cutter fashion. We are individuals gifted with abilities and talents specifically designed to live out fully our love for God and our love for others. Our unique stories are God’s handiwork fashioned just for us.

No one can live your story and you cannot live someone else’s.

Our lack of understanding of ourselves and others’ misunderstanding of us does not prevent God from writing His story in us and fulfilling His preordained purpose for us. Because He never misunderstands.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:11-12

When we live in God’s presence trusting God never misunderstands our hearts, it’s like moving from the outskirts of the Kingdom into the heart of the city. Only we won’t bring our baggage with us. No suitcases to deal with misunderstanding will be needed. For all we desire, all our enough is found in the throne room of the King. The place we enter without the need of invitation and are free to be who He has created us to be.

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