Steganography

“And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.” (2 Kings 4:27 KJV)

“…and the Lord hath hid it from me…” Have you ever felt like you are not quite seeing all that there is to see about a situation? We hear often about the advantages of objectivity, but inevitably if we back up to obtain a better perspective then we distance ourselves from the nearness of the issue. It is usually the case that we need to come nearer rather than further to properly implement a solution. Also, what if the object is a sphere? No matter how far back you go (like a satellite to a planet) it will take a minimum of two satellites to see all sides of the matter. How profound was it for Solomon to understand God’s glorious capability of both concealing and revealing matters and Man’s limitation of merely being able to search it out? “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2 KJV)

In a technology age, we have begun to make more use of steganography. Steganography conceals or protects something in code inside something else. A nested document inside a picture. A hidden watermark or copyright inside a publication. A message hidden in layers of symbolism, analogy, history, or even fictional stories that contain tiers of time released meaning that are revealed with an increased understanding. The phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words” used to reflect a need for brevity. Now a picture may actually contain several thousand-word documents.

One of the most tragic shortcomings of modern teaching (especially in Sunday schools) in the ancient art of story telling. Not that we are not often falsely accused of merely telling stories. Nor that there are not hundreds of them to tell. Yet all to often we want a core competency, a specific theological point, and key take-a-ways or action items. We have dragged the business of charts, graphs, outlines, statistics, and presentation bullet points into an area that used to be reserved for the story. While a fictitious story can never really be anything more than entertainment, truth in story form is both a story and so much more. Stories can be told to (and remembered by) both the simplest and youngest audiences. It widens the audience rather than shrinks it. Stories can be easily retold and/or meditated on. The meaning can be absorbed and understood later while the details are more completely captured by the immediate audience. The situations in a story come down toward an audience rather than specific competencies which tend to pull away from and above an audience. As a person grows additional meaning can always be rung one more time out of a story. A theological lesson is often naked to it’s purpose and competencies when it is initially delivered and rarely increases in value. A structured lesson tends to have a diminishing rate of return the further you get from the initial presentation which had all the technical details and/or the professional presenter. The details of a story can intrigue us causing us to ask questions and do research. It is the questions about a story that cause us to eventually find answers rather than trying to remember the pre-cut answers that we have already received. It is almost a shame that we try so hard to manage intense lessons when simply surrendering to the power of a story that has been written down for centuries is such a powerful teacher.

“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35 KJV)

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