“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Change happens. We cannot live through a year, or for that matter, even a month without some sort of change. Change touches everything, even our language and the meaning of our words. I love history, so here are some fun facts.
At one time, the word ‘silly’ meant ‘to be blessed with worthiness.’ And then there is the word ‘flirt.’ Today we might say flirting is to make some alluring eye contact or express some fun or enticing language toward someone we show interest in, but in the mid-16th century, flirting was defined as a sudden sharp movement. The original sense of the word was to ‘give someone a sharp blow’ and to be ‘sneered at.’ That is quite a change from how we use the word today! Then there was the word fudge. That chocolatey delicious treat that is hard to pass up while we are on vacation. Its original meaning was to ‘lie or to speak complete nonsense.’ We still use it in its original meaning, but I do see how this one has morphed into our tempting treat.
In the Roman world of the first and second centuries, the Latin word for ‘genius’ was very different from how we use it today. We see ‘a genius’ as someone who is incredibly smart in some aspect of knowledge or skill. It is very specific to an individual person. Yet in ancient times, genius was seen as coming from a deity that either resided in a place or would follow an individual around, usually on the shoulder. You were a genius because you either came from a genius place or that genius place followed you!
There was a reason why the Romans thought a genius was equated with coming from a place rather than being innate to a person. They saw that it was the places we have lived as key to that which shaped and formed us. In a profound sense, God’s character is forged in us, or should I say His genius happens when we abide in those places he has for us. It’s the refining fire that many prophets spoke about, or the narrow place or desert experience. None of us love to be in “those places,” especially when it is hard to understand or appreciate the work that is being formed in us, yet it is exactly in those difficult places where we gain the wisdom, understanding, and Godly character that color and inform us for the rest of our lives.
It was true for King David. While he is known as a warrior king that fought epic battles, none larger than his ‘one-on-one’ battle with Goliath, yet the most enduring gift from David’s life was not his military victories nor his kingly achievements, but rather it was the genius developed as a singer/songwriter. All of humanity for the past 3000 years have been blessed by the Psalms that were written and crafted in places like the cave of Adullam and the barren wilderness while tending his father’s sheep.
If ‘genius,’ from the Roman world perspective is that which is born in us when we have come from a given place, then maybe we should not despise the download of wisdom and the slow process of maturing a Godly character that will transform us into “His genius” while we are there. Ultimately, the Romans were right, genius only comes when we ‘Embrace the Place’ He has us.
Do not deride the cave or the wilderness experience, but rather trust that as you abide in those ‘places,’ God’s genius is being shaped and formed in you. It may be that the genius formed in you will be the enduring gift that God shares with our world.
P.S. We have a matching fund running for Hope Unlimited, check out the totals and ministry at https://secure.givelively.org/donate/business-2-missions-dba-mbridge/hope-unlimited-for-chaplains