What Are You Looking For?

by Jeffrey D. Miller | February 17, 2013

Recently I was in need of a certain book. I don’t own the book, and after a brief unfruitful search I gave up. Later that day, I walked by an office ten feet from mine and saw the book on a shelf just inside the office’s open door. I borrowed it and quickly found what I needed.

Why is this a fascinating story? Because I’ve walked by that office thousands of times over the last fourteen years and never noticed that book before. I didn’t see it until I was looking for it. We’ve all repeatedly experienced such phenomena: You buy a Honda Civic, and you suddenly notice there are Civics everywhere. You hear a new word that you consider obscure, yet you hear it again a day later. We see what we’re looking for; we hear what we’re prepared to hear. Don’t believe me? Then watch this video about an unusual card trick.

When reading the Bible, we often see what we’re looking for, what we’re prepared for. We rarely see what we don’t want to see. One person sees “submit to your husbands.” Another person sees “submit to one another.” One sees “let a woman learn….” Another sees, “…in quietness and full submission.” What then should we do? Well, for starters:

~Strive to approach Scripture with eyes and ears open wide.
~Listen carefully to people with differing perspectives. This listening includes authors from different centuries and cultures.
~We mustn’t assume we fully grasp a particular biblical text; even after several readings it may have more to offer.

Why else is my book story fascinating? Because that same bookshelf holds more than a hundred other books, and I couldn’t name even one of them. Something caught my eye because I was looking for it; what riches might I find if I expanded my search?