As I talked and moved the middle pencil in my metaphor from side to side, my friend nodded his head as if to say, “That’s me.” No, I didn’t take away his suffering, or answer his questions, but I felt as though I had given him a tool to better understand his test. It also reminded him his confusion was temporary. The timeline moving forward was yet to be determined, but it was helpful to know his battle was normal and his future was filled with hope.
Since this initial pencil talk I have used the same metaphor with others seeking a structure to help them begin to process their feelings. Sometimes the people with whom I share aren’t ready to process, but just having a structure they know they can access seems to give them a sense of control.
And like all metaphors, this one has its flaws. Not everyone is comfortable viewing the questions and answers of faith as a sliding scale. Some see faith as a matter of the will, and believe all questions are ultimately answered by the power of the cross. I understand this sentiment, but personally am comfortable living with doubts, as long as they are held in check by other certainties.
Others think a sliding pencil oversimplifies the dire complexity of human suffering, and trivializes our grief and pain. I sympathize with this concern as well, and am careful to point out any characterization of trouble is merely a container for our thoughts, not a medicine bottle with an instant cure.
I reiterate my #2 pencil metaphor is just that: a symbol of life that aids us in processing the disappointments of life in our search for peace and clarity. I take my cue from Jesus who used parabolic examples such as sparrows and grass to describe the love of God. Sometimes He even used a sliding scale to convey degree, such as in His parables of the talents and the sower.
There is no intent on my part to raise my #2 pencil graph to the level of Jesus’ teachings. But if, they can help someone on their journey of pain, I am thankful and give the Lord all of the credit.
It is true the subject of testing is not a simple one. Therefore, our discussion must begin with an admission of two of the most common faith frustrations (stay tuned).
What value do you believe metaphors have in the process of working through our personal struggles? Do you have a favorite?
Dear God, as I seek a way to gain some control over my circumstances, help me remember you are in control of everything. In Jesus’ name, Amen.