Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Metaphorically Speaking

[what's brewing: is coffee an animal, vegetable or metaphor?]

I have been quite fond of metaphors ever since I learned what they were back in elementary school. I can imagine our teacher had an amusing time reading through the metaphor-writing exercises after that lesson, presented with the most extravagant and over the top examples of metaphorical imagery – like a...

What I like about metaphors is their capacity to concrete a concept in my mind by creating a visual image or connection to a familiar concept. Some of the most significant lessons I’ve learned in my life have come as a result of effective metaphors. Many of my favorite verses and passages, at least the ones I’m most able to remember, contain metaphors.

… so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life… Philippians 2:15

I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land… Psalms 143:6

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart… Isaiah 40:11

Recently I read a passage of Scripture (Exodus 17:8-13) that, while not literarily metaphorical, contains a powerful image that has brought all kinds of metaphorical connections to my mind. (Ever since my Biblical interpretation class in seminary I’m very cautious to suggest that any passage means any particular thing or contains metaphorical implications. But I do believe that God can use passages like this to teach us important lessons that are in line with His truth. So, in that way I am referring to this passage, even if my metaphorically inclined mind is drawing more from this than the text actually suggests.)

8) The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9) Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10) So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11) As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12) When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

The image of Moses sitting on the rock, exhausted and weary, with Aaron on one side and Hur on the other, together holding his hands up has burrowed deeply into my mind this week. Aaron and Hur offered this type of support when Moses could no longer do it alone, and they did so to allow God to continue working through Joshua as he had declared. They gave him a seat, they held up his hands, and Joshua overcame the Amalekites.

The metaphorical connections that this passage brings to my mind are countless, and undoubtedly greater in number since our move into a cross-cultural life. But I want to hear from you.

What does this passage bring to your mind?
What elements of the story stick out to you most?
Who are you in the story?
Who is holding your arms and bringing you a stone to sit on?
How are your arms being held up, or how are you holding the arms of others?
What do you see God accomplishing through obedience, despite weariness and fatigue?

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

And thank you for holding up my arms through your comments and companionship over the last 14 months here on Coffeegirl Confessions.


brook said...

It reminds me of situations that friends of mine are going through right now. They are weak and exhausted from the battle. Being attacked in their ministries and their personal lives over and over again.
I've seen co-workers and nationals come alongside and hold up their arms. Sometimes they've taken over the fight when it has gotten out beyond our realm of control. In the end as we 'bear one another's burdens' we all get tired. We feel like the wind has been knocked out of us.
That's when more friends come to hold us up. That's when we are thankful for faithful prayer warriors.
I know that in the past when I was involved in a fatal car accident these same friends and co-workers were there to hold up my arms. I pray that I can uphold them in their times of need.
I also find it interesting that Satan didn't have to attack the army itself, he just had to go after Moses and his physical strength. We have a cunning enemy, we must be on guard.

kimom said...

This passage reminds me that we need one another. Raised as in an individualistic culture, I tend to attack problems myself and am tempted to put on a 'face of sufficiency' for those around me. It is, of course, a lie that I can/need to handle difficulty alone.

God has graciously allowed us to be an 'Aaron' or 'Hur' for someone else a few crucial times in spite of our weariness, weakness and stupidity. Often I feel the support of our partners at home, or the colleagues/friends here who hold our arms up. Without them we surely could not make it more than a few months.

This is an area where I can learn a lot from African cultures we serve. 'Going the extra mile' for those you love is a part of everyday life here.

Years ago I was documenting local childhood games and one girl's game was incredibly difficult for me to play! There was a nice song and dance and then at the end of the phrase the girl in the middle throws herself backwards and the others catch her! Like a smaller, more rhythmic 'trust fall' over and over. Throwing myself backward into their arms was one of the hardest things I ever did. But those girls learned at a very young age to trust each other and to lean on each other.

Sisters in Christ are a gift. Thanks, CG for giving me a rock to sit on once in a while. It has been refreshing! (sorry this is so long!)

Stephanie said...

I am struck once again with the importance of intercession. I can hold up the hands of those I love (or those I don't even know!) from miles away with my prayers of intercession--- reminds me of the friends that carried the man to Jesus on the stretcher, holding this lame man "up" to Jesus. Another picture/metaphor of intercession. I want to take my role of prayer and intercession more seriously. Thank you for the reminder.


Jamie Jo said...

I just found this blog after reading the WOTH magazine. Please add me to the blog roll. I look forward to reading other missionary blogs. What an encouragement you are! Thank you.

http://mnmsfrommexico.blogspot.com (Memories and Musings from Mexico)


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