I realized on my run this morning, in a moment of it’s-probably-obvious-to-everyone-else-but-a-revelation-to-me clarity, just how many different stories there are in the Bible. I have at the back of my mind this idea that the Christian experience should be more-or-less the same for everyone, but a cursory glance at the Bible with open eyes should really disabuse me of that notion.
Jacob, for example, experienced God as the opponent in a wrestling match. Moses experienced God as a burning bush, or a pillar of fire. Job experienced God as a courtroom adversary, (and then both counsel for the defence and judge.) David experienced God as all-knowing, all-seeing. Habakkuk experienced God as frustratingly obtuse, Jonah experienced God as frustratingly merciful.
When Jesus turned up on the scene, the Bible continues in this vein. The Pharisees encountered him as a dangerous challenge. Mary experienced tender compassion. Peter experienced bold challenge. Paul experienced dramatic life reversal. John experienced profound philosophical satisfaction.
Why on earth, then, do I have this story in my head of the Christian experience being one of ‘convert, join a church, meander along in a reasonably satisfactorily middle class life, don’t get into trouble?’
If everyone who encounters God in the Bible had a unique story to tell about the experience, surely the only thing I can expect for sure about my spiritual narrative is that it will, also, be unique?