A map by definition is a diagrammatic representation, usually in 2 dimensions, of an area showing it’s physical features. In short, it’s a summary of the real thing and, due to it’s “broad-stroke” representations and the exclusion of minute details, it becomes compact and manageable.
I have guided many prayer walks in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans while I lived there and handed maps to all those who came along. If I could walk with you down the streets now, you might come across:
- huge junk shops/flea markets that are filled from floor to ceiling with wacky treasures that are waiting to be discovered
- Cafe Flora and wonder when you took a wrong turn into an exotic foreign country.
- You might meet Bill and his dog as he weaves together handmade necklaces on the porch of a vacant, abandoned house that he has lived in for over 3 years.
- You may see a park filled with young, homeless travelers who’ve organized incredibly competitive kickball tournaments.
- It’s possible you’ll find a voodoo priestess down Rosalie Alley who actively practices rituals for public observation.
However, none of these things could have been seen by simply looking at the map!
The neighborhood is dynamic, moving, and alive! Some of it is shocking and other parts are beautiful but you will not fully understand it until you walk the streets for yourself. While there are many uses for a map, you must put it down and actually walk the streets to get to know a neighborhood and see how she lives! A guide can tell you many stories and even show pictures of notable place, people, and happenings but you have to go there for yourself to experience the sights, sounds, and smells and to feel the environment as it envelopes you!
It is quite common for us in the American Christian culture to reduce our interactions with the scriptures to manageable bites by listening to a weekly sermon or catching a daily devotional thought from a coffee table book. Many would object, “what’s wrong with devotions or sermons?!” Nothing is wrong with these components themselves but the problem is found when they become an end in and of themselves instead of a means to an end. Psalm 12 verse 6 says, ‘The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” How quick we are to satisfy our spiritual cravings with mere summaries and circumvent the scriptures almost completely. It’s an ancient and clever trick by the enemy: distract with what is good to avoid what is perfect and pure.
- Maps: Books, creeds, devotions, commentaries, bible study notes, and systematic theologies.
- Guides: pastors giving sermons [both local and far], teachers, parents, and friends.
This is a call to put down the maps and start walking through the streets of the biblical text for yourself. Stop living vicariously through the spiritual lives of others and dig into the scriptures on your own. As you walk the streets of the biblical text getting to know the God who wrote them be changed by them. As you are changed, take them into your neighborhoods where they can, by your representation, change the community surrounding you. When others begin to ask about the difference in you, guide them to the pure scriptures, the source, the voice of God so they walk the streets for themselves.