by Paige Vanosky
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought I knew where my life was going, until one day I discovered I didn’t.
About 30 years ago I met a wonderful man who became my husband. He had grown up in Arizona, and I, in Texas. Now, if you know anything about Texans, we DON’T leave Texas. That is, until the husband you love dearly wants to move to a land where humidity and mosquitoes don’t exist and where golf is playable year-round. He wanted to move to 1000 miles west, to Southern California.
I had always been part of a deeply religious community so I wasn’t sure what the wilds of Southern California would hold for me. I believed the move was God’s plan, but I admit to feeling a bit like Abraham, leaving familiar territory to go to a land I didn’t know. I immediately met wonderful Christians there, but one day something happened that would challenge my complacent Christian thinking, and my world. I agreed to lead a Bible study.
Here was the challenge – The women were Protestant and Catholic, with a bit of Jewish, skeptical, liberal and conservative thinking thrown in. I realized I was going to need to think through issues I had put aside for years! Pat answers wouldn’t work with this group; only a carefully researched and thoughtful weekly presentation would do. As I began to fear divisive discussions, my thoughts returned to the words of my long-time pastor: “Other than the essential elements of faith, all else is an interesting conversation.” These words became foundational to our study and as a result, enabled us to have many interesting discussions covering almost most every possible topic. We each grew tremendously in our faith and understanding through these conversations, eventually noticing that everyone was moving to the middle on these issues.
It was towards the end of our twelve-year chronological journey through the Bible that I joined a book club. As a new member I needed to review a book, and because of my recent biblical journey, a friend suggested I review the Bible. I couldn’t imagine condensing the Bible into a 30-minute presentation, but with the help of my now learned Bible study group I did just that. It was the condensed version, the big picture, of the Bible that startled me - it was a “wow!”
I found the Bible is actually one long story, from the beginning of time to the wrapping up of history, focusing on the lives of one branch of a family tree leading from Adam and Eve to Jesus. I realized that most of the Bible was written either by or about the main characters in this story. And I found an amazing number of themes that develop throughout the story but that never fall away. These themes are carried throughout the story despite over 40 authors writing over 1400 years. It is truly amazing. My world was changed.
Why did this impact me so much?
First, I saw the overarching biblical story as history – the history of the Jewish people and the Middle East are foundational to the Old Testament, and the history of Jesus and the birth of Christianity forms the New Testament. The biblical timeline set against known history is fascinating.
Second, I began to see God, Jesus, and humanity in a different light. I finally understood God created humanity for relationship with him, but that the Garden story is humanity’s response– a desire for independence, convinced we don’t need him. Just as with Adam and Eve, we believe we can become wise without God because of the Serpent’s, the Devil’s, tempting words to Adam and Eve as well as to all of humanity throughout time.
One would think God, in anger, would have disowned Adam and Eve immediately, but instead he immediately promised to mend the relationship. The rest of the biblical story tells of God’s power and determined commitment to do just that. Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, a complete fulfillment of God’s promise in the Garden so long ago, is remarkable.
Third, I now realize humanity’s role in the problems of our world. Creation tells that God created us to be his agents caring for all creation, including one another. Yet so many millennia later, and so many devastating life stories later, we have not realized that. And so, the overarching biblical story helped me understand life – globally and individually - in a far different way. By not truly loving and caring for our neighbor and our world, we are the cause of many of the world issues today.
Finally, my world changed because I felt led to share my newfound clarity with others. I, a lover of the back row and working behind the scenes, co-authored a book with a renowned Bible scholar, Dr. Craig Bartholomew. My name is now on the cover of a book, and I am speaking in front of large audiences - something I never thought I could do! And it’s wonderful. The joy of sharing the biblical story with others is tremendous. The book, The 30-Minute Bible: God’s Story for Everyone, tells the overarching biblical story of the Bible that so wonderfully changed my life. I’m not intimidated anymore: I’m inspired!
Paige P. Vanosky is a small group leader and community volunteer. The 30-Minute Bible grew out of her own teaching ministry. She lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California.