When I was a child, I loved the sight of the flax field in bloom, and wondered how the soft blue of the flowers could be only slightly different from the soft blue of the sky. I loved the softness of all of the colors of my Minnesota prairie. In spite of waiting in our basement as a tornado destroyed all the buildings other than the house, and in spite of the angry thunderclouds we sometimes had, in my mind at least, the colors of the prairie were soft. A friend from Michigan came to visit, and I brought him to the center of the field to show how, when the land is flat and there are few trees, you can see the horizon no matter which way you looked. “But Gloria,” he said, “There is nothing to see.” Some friendships are not made to last.
At the beginning of his book, Hielema talks about the important ways that Jesus can “deepen the colors of our understanding of God.” He says that the purpose of the book is to explore questions such as, “What is my place in God’s world?” and, “What am I called to do and be, and how do I know?” Those two questions might sound as though they were meant for a young person, but I can say, as a believer in the later years of my life, that those two questions are always with me.
So what does Hielema mean by saying that the Bible is like a storybook that could be subtitled “the story of God deepening the colors”? He shows how it begins with the multicolored splash of a garden filled with the colors of shalom (Gen. 1), and ends with John’s description of the Holy City as a completed kingdom of multicolored richness, intense shining that sparkles with the glory of God (Rev. 21)
Hielema describes the way the Spirit works in each dimension of our humanness. He tells us how we can work to develop the habits that will help us grow in wisdom and discern God’s call in every aspect of our lives. “Spiritual warfare does involve demons and angels, but it also involves my decisions, human sickness and health, economic policies, how people worship, the actions of governments, how I manage my time. The hours I spend playing video games, the choices I make in spending my money, the conversations I have with others—they all occur on the battlefield; each one involves a struggle between the kingdom of God and the challenges to that kingdom” (7).
In a survey I sent to middle school students a few years ago, I asked, “What questions do you have that you wished someone would answer for you?” When I presented their questions to teachers, their immediate response was to ask for help in addressing those questions with their students. One principal said, “How could I possibly help students answer those questions when I have lived with such questions all my life?” In his blog, Close the Gap Now, Michael Essenburg lists ninety-nine questions that high school students ask. Hielema likely never saw either of these lists of questions, but he addresses the serious questions these students and other believers have, and he does so in a straightforward manner. Questions such as:
- What does it mean to be created in the image of God?
- What does it mean to reflect what we worship and trust?
- Why should I bother to go to church when I don’t feel any benefit?
- How can I tell whether I am maturing in my faith?
- Is fasting a worthwhile practice?
- What problems are there with habits and how do I develop “Truth-Walking” habits?
- What part do my emotions play in my faith life?
- Does it matter that I have the beliefs of faith, but don’t have the feelings of faith?
- Who has God called me to be?