For as much of my youth as I can remember, and whenever I could get away with it since, I’ve used the exegetical approach to understanding people in authority over me — pastors and teachers. That is to say, I’ve approached what they say the way I approach books: by mulling over what they just said in light of what they’ve said at other times and trying in that way to draw conclusions on what their overarching concerns and ways of understanding the world are. When there was a point that I just didn’t understand and couldn’t resolve with my own experience and beliefs I would get stuck there, either rejecting what I thought they must mean, or trying in vain to figure out what they might possibly mean that would be true, or at least reasonable. As with a book, I assumed a non-interactive format, but unlike a book it was hard to remember precisely what had been said, which was frustrating. I didn’t occur to me that I could go and ask, because my questions didn’t feel like that kind of question. They were “why are we using this language?” questions, and “what do you mean by that phrase you use all the time?” questions. Things like: “give my whole life to God,” “give over the steering wheel of my life,” have a personal relationship with God,” and similar weighty questions. Then, later, they were educational jargon questions. Why do we have to speak like that? Why do we say we can do all those things? I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who could do all those things. What could you possibly mean by that?
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I felt like I couldn’t ask. I felt, I think, that my way of speaking and the way of speaking I was hearing were so very different that I couldn’t even articulate my confusion. But could I? It might be hard — harder than I think it should be — but, all the same, could I? What would that mean?