Fiddler on the Roof – What an awesome movie! The scenery, the music, the acting were all superb! However, what I remember most from watching the movie 35 years ago was the way Tevye, the father of the family, spoke to God. It wasn’t like the formal prayers I heard at church. Tevye spoke to God as casually and as often as he would speak to a close friend. I wanted to walk and talk with God the way Tevye did, but I didn’t know how.
It seemed too difficult to know someone I couldn’t see. So I continued to attend church and tried to be a good person. I thought my spiritual needs were being met. However, when my sons hit the teen years, my comfortable world was shaken. Each son had problems with drug and alcohol addiction, depression, psychosis and then some. My instinct was to call out to God. I needed help from God, because all the earthly resources I was using were not working.
Last week my desire to know God increased again. My mother, who had severe Alzheimer’s disease, died. Because I already lost the mother I had known several years ago, I thought her death wouldn’t be so traumatic. However, it still hurt. My mother was gone, and no one could ever take her place. She was 81 years old, but I remember her being 52 (my age) like it was yesterday. How can ten, twenty, thirty years go by in a blink of an eye? How soon would it be me going to be with God? I want to know God like my mother knows him in heaven. However, I want to know him now on earth the way Tevye knew him.
My desire to know God reminds me of the story about the elephant and the mouse. They were friends and went everywhere together. One day they walked across a bridge, making it shake, creak and groan. When they reached the other side, the mouse commented, “With our combined weight, we really made that old bridge shake, creak and groan.” The mouse had power because of his friend, the elephant. I also want to have a huge friend, God.
It seems impossible to learn to know God, but he tells us that we were made by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16) He not only wants us to know him, but he wants a deep intimate relationship with us. The Lord compares our relationship with him to a bride and her husband. He tells us that our maker is our husband; the Lord Almighty is his name. (Isaiah 54:5) He states, “But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” (Jeremiah 3:1) God knows that we often allow our worldly pleasures to become more important to us than him. He loves us passionately, and he wants us to love him passionately.
Before we can love God, we need to know him. Tevye knew God. When I watched Fiddler on the Roof a second time, I realized that Tevye was giving me the secret to his relationship with God. He frequently quoted what the Good Book says. Tevye quoted the Bible so often that at one point he was telling God what the Good Book says. He stopped himself and said, “Oh, I don’t need to tell you what the Good Book says.”
Tevye knew the Bible was no ordinary book, but actually words breathed from God. (II Timothy 3:16) God tells us that the Bible comes to us not just with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with conviction. (I Thessalonians 1:4) That explains why the Bible has survived through the centuries and is still a best seller.
God wants us to read the Bible to learn to know him, not just know about him. We may be able to pass all the trivia tests about the Bible and still not know him. Facts in the Bible become just that – trivia - if we don’t know the author of the book. God became angry with the Pharisees who knew the scripture well, but didn’t know God. He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (Mark 7:6)
Reading the Bible changed for me as I learned to know God. What used to seem like boring ancient history was now food for the soul. Recently I found a method that helped me to hear God’s voice. Before starting to read I ask God what he wants me to learn. Then after reading a few chapters, I write in my journal what he tells me. What an experience! – To hear directly from the Creator of the universe through his Holy Spirit.
God gave me an amazing lesson of how the Holy Spirit works one Sunday morning. I was sitting in church, and I began thinking about the bumper sticker on my car. This sticker had been on my car for three years, and I was surprised that I even thought of it. My next thought was that the message may be on my car, but if the Holy Spirit doesn’t deliver it to anyone, it doesn’t do any good. The bumper sticker was from Psalms 100 encouraging us to be thankful. Because I had learned that my life was so much better when I made a practice of being thankful, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to deliver it to someone. One half hour later, we were sitting at a red light on the way home from church when the man from the car behind us walked up and tapped on the window to get our attention. He told us that the bumper sticker meant so much to him. I was flabbergasted!
God tells us that the secret to knowing him is love. He tells us that whoever doesn’t love, doesn’t know him, because he is love. (I John 4:8) He tells us that doing what is right and just, and defending the cause of the poor and needy is what it means to know him.” (Jeremiah 22:16) Learning to know God is learning to know love. Who doesn’t want that?
Tevye knew God and often talked to him about problems with his children. As I learned to know God, I talked to God about what to do for my teenage sons. The answer God gave me was not what I expected. He told me, “If you humble yourself, and pray and seek my face, and turn from your wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive your sin and heal your land. (II Chronicles 7:14) I was amazed. I had been putting all my efforts into changing them, not me.
Learning to know God has been rewarding, but not always smooth. I get frustrated, because I fail so often. The standard that God sets is perfect, and I will never reach that. However, I know that it is a growing process. I can look back and see the progress I have made. My jealousy and depression have been replaced with praise and thankfulness. The best change is my hope for my sons. I am now looking for the next miracle, not the next crisis.
The growing process of learning to know God will only be finished when we meet him in heaven. My mother finished the process. She knows him now.