You may have learned the definition of metaphor as a direct comparison without using like or as, and seen examples of it in novels and poems. You may be surprised that someone could write a whole book about metaphors (or read one!) But yes, I read Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.
Parts of the book went to one of two extremes: either very obvious or very technical. But, while not a Christian book, the book made one amazing claim that relates to our own Christian lives: we each have our own personal metaphors that can impact how we live!
Yes, our personal metaphors are story lines that we believe about our lives, and whether we realize it or not, we are living out these stories. Some of these stories can be quite worthwhile and biblical; and others quite destructive, unbiblical, and horrible.
Do you ever complain about your job?
My attitude when working on my last job was “Oh, I’m a Christian; I don’t complain.” I started my last year at the job with a very nice metaphor: My job is an endurance race that I will finish well……But without realizing it, I exchanged that good metaphor for a crummy one —
Yes, after I retired, the Lord used the metaphor book to show the metaphor that was really in my heart that last year: “My job is a prison”. If I had seen that real attitude earlier and repented of it, then I would have had more joy in my last year at work!
Scripture provides great antidotes for crummy metaphors. Here’s an example of how that works. The crummy metaphor is: “My life is a wilderness.”
Remember, the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness—until Moses finally led them to the promised land. Similarly, our own life without Jesus is a wilderness. But Jesus, the greater Moses, leads us out of the wilderness ….
And when he leads us out of the wilderness, that leads straight to today’s metaphor from Psalm 46:1:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
When we leave our wilderness, God is the place of refuge in today’s picture.
Here’s another example: If you think “I am a victim”, then Jesus says you can replace that with “I am a light”.
I could go on, but can you think of a destructive metaphor you have that can be traded in for a worthwhile and helpful one? To choose to walk in this new metaphor would influence how you live.
And note well: It’s the power of the Spirit that allows us to live our new metaphor, giving it far more impact than a mere self-help slogan.