Most nights I sleep like a baby – except just every now and then. Last night was one of those nights. When I can’t sleep, I have learned to embrace being awake. Like a little kid, I find something that I want to do and enjoy the extra time. Its found time when I can do whatever I want. Last night I decided to watch a documentary. Yes, I know that is nerdy, but I love documentaries. This one was about Easter Island.
Easter Island is that amazing island in the South Pacific where huge carved stone statues were found standing together looking into the ocean. Archaeologists have found the spot where the statues were carved. And they have discovered the tools used to carve them. But they had never been able to figure out how these 82 ton statues could have been moved the long distance from the quarry where they were carved to their final resting places.
To make the information even harder to discover, the island is an ecological disaster. The natives had killed each other off. An infestation of rats and farming gone wild had completely deforested the island. In addition, the natives were eventually taken as slaves. By the time archaeologists decided to study the island, there were less than 100 natives left.
Finally, archaeologists decided to go to the remaining tribe to see if they knew how the statues had been moved. Of course they knew! Without hesitation and doubt, the natives declared that the statues had walked into place. The first archaeologists laughed and disregarded the wisdom of the tribe as being ridiculous. Then moved on to other theories. But recently, some archaeologists decided to listen. And they asked the question… “how might the statues have walked into place?” They begin to notice several things about the statues – they had notches cut into them where ropes might have been attached and their bottoms were rounded instead of being flat allowing them to rock back and forth in a forward movement. The archaeologists thought about this for some time when they came up with a theory that the statues had indeed walked into place. Then they build their own statue and “walked” it into place (see the picture).
What had seemed so crazy suddenly made sense. The statues really had walked into place. This is often like studying the Bible. I am not saying that miracles aren’t possible. I absolutely believe they are. But what I am saying is that often we don’t understand what the Bible is saying simply because we don’t ponder it long enough exploring all the possibilities. We accept what others believe without thinking for ourselves. We don’t listen to the subtleties of language and tone. The Bible is an ancient text most often told orally before it was ever written down. Then written in a culture we no longer understand. We have to interpret it in the culture that it was written – and translate that for the culture of today. But so often we give up too easily without real understanding. We misunderstand scripture and use it to be intolerant, discriminate, hurt others. But we need to listen better… hear what the Holy Spirit is really saying through the authors. Explore all the possibilities! If something isn’t in line with Jesus’ teaching of loving God and others – keep asking questions! God isn’t afraid of those who ask questions.
April is a progressive Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs.