Considered in the past tense here at summer’s end, the six cumulative weeks recently spent in three Houston hospitals appear more and more purposeful and increasingly less a matter of waste. The metaphor persistently recurring in my mind is a summer program in alternate education. A typical school catalog might describe it as “an unconventional approach to learning, featuring hands-on courses in an immersionist environment, complete with full laboratory experience.” All that said, however, the real zinger remains undisclosed–a zinger that, if known, might easily deternine the decision whether to participate or not–as if deciding played any meaningful role in this extraordinary process.
Ah yes, the zinger–but such only to those like me, people in whose brain the concepts of books and learning are flip sides of a single coin. The zinger, you see, is that this summer curricula included no books or other printed or electronic equivalent. Concerning my own resources, I did peruse the photos and headlines in a new Christianity Today (which I normally would devour from cover to cover), and I managed to snitch a few paragraphs from the Greek New Testament, but that about sums it up.
It is not an easy thing to confess–but in all the hubbub of someone taking vital signs, another person dispensing medicines, you dealing with pain, trips to the privy, ringing for someone to accompany you there from bed and back again, waiting for them to come, deciding whether to wait any longer or chance it alone, attending to such fundamentals as dressing and eating, plus several hours daily of physical therapy, and on and on and on–in all that hubbub and hustle and bustle and flurry, it honestly seemed that for me, precisely then and exactly there, that God had nothing he needed to tell me through the book that I regularly called his “Word”–or at least nothing that could not wait. I almost decided not to tell you that, but God knows it anyway, and his is the only opinion that finally matters.
This propositional silence on God’s part took me thoroughly by surprise, not least because from the beginning of my stay in that institutionalized environment, I had envisioned daily disciplined devotionals–complete with unexpected and exceptional bursts of spiritual insight, golden nuggets divinely given to leave me better and perhaps even to share with others. But that is not what happened, and I cannot be at all sorry, given the way things turned out. Revelation, I learned, is too expansive either to transport or even to contain in propositions.There is also self-revelation that happens apart from words, teaching that occurs simply by being, education that takes place by seeing and doing and doing again. And there is a schooling for which my disordered and disoriented circumstances were not only perfectly suited but were also uniquely prepared. The time had now come, I suspect our heavenly Father was thinking, for old Edward finally to have some missing courses in the learning that doesn’t come from books.