“God cannot possibly know. You haven’t made your decision yet."
His words still carry the same power for me today as they did while I attended my sophomore year of seminary. I took three credits of independent study with Dr. Donald Bloesch* who was one of the most influential theologians in the evangelical world at the time. His retirement was imminent. So, being someone who wanted to impress others with my credentials as a female minister, I approached him with my request to add one more impressive award to my already large collection. He only allowed one student per semester. It was a daunting task. But, no one else applied. So Dr. Bloesch was stuck with me.
My assignment was to read several volumes of his work and do a fifty page paper for my grade. Easy peasy. Blow off course! I already knew it all. I had all of his books.
I made three appointments to meet with him during the semester to discuss my progress with my paper and he agreed to answer any questions I might have. I was so arrogant. I read all his books. I took copious notes. I didn’t have any questions. We chatted about his new books when we met but I never asked him any questions. What I’ve learned over the years is that there are times in my life when the teaching of the Holy Spirit is incredibly slow and meticulous. I believe he does this effective style of teaching so that the results have a life long impact.
Dr. Bloesch was months away from retirement. He didn’t need to spend time with me but he did. I wrote a magnificent treatise on Dr. Bloesch’s theological method. It was a thing of beauty. My paper included 67 pages of spectacularly edited content and 14 pages of notes from his own works which included virtually inaccessible articles he wrote. Impressive. I gave it to him expecting an A. He was as congenial as his theology. Be gave me a B minus.
“You’ve done a rather large book report, Jenny. What I wanted to know is what you believe.”
I was crushed. I had convinced myself that I would be the very best woman in the pulpit with the very best credentials. A B-minus? What a colossal failure. I committed to do more. I would go deeper. I would show everyone that women could really be exceptional ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, I was representing all women clergy. I believed it was my solemn duty to be better than everyone else, including the men. So, I took extra hard classes. I wrote more papers. I attended more seminars and double majored in my Masters of Divinity with a concentration in Historical Theology. I hung out with all the smart people. I could recite the theology of others verbatim. But, I had no clue what I believed.
I stored up all the wrong treasures, literally.
Me being me, I made an appointment to discuss my grade with Dr. Bloesch. Several weeks passed. He knew what he was doing. Our final discussion eventually yielded some fine gold theologians spend their whole lives developing. In Dr. Bloesch’s case, his entire career. Our conversation separated the dross and created something pure within me. Dr. Bloesch helped me understand the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and he assured me that my experience with him would eventually pay off.
One of his very clear critiques of my paper helped dispel my belief that God knew everything and controlled all my circumstances. I still remember him stiffening in his high back chair. "How can God possibly know. You haven’t made your decision yet.”
What kind of a relationship would that be? Is God a puppet master? God enters into a relationship with us. He doesn’t predetermine our thoughts or decisions. Yes, God is omniscient, but we do not abdicate our responsibility for making decisions. It is in those moments, the intersections we’ve been talking about on Sundays, where God does his best work. Those intersections are Jesus’ favorite part of abiding in a relationship with us. This is where we participate. We are not robots, not slaves trying to appease an angry God. We are cherished. We are loved. We get to weigh in and make choices. The Holy Spirit, God’s very presence, lives in me and in you, creating that pure gold. The more we actively engage with him, the more like Jesus we become.
If we are going to store up treasures, we need to store up the right ones. Jesus clearly commands the crowd listening to him to store up treasures in heaven and to not waste our time on things that can be destroyed or stolen. Or in my case, graded.
“Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
* Just in case you’re wondering who he is—my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Elmer Colyer, wrote an article to help us understand him:https://digitalcommons.luthersem.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1000&context=jctr