A loud, rapid bellow reverberates across the regal mahogany veneer in the room. The plush carpet and opulent drapes do little to lessen the harsh echo that the sprawling chamber enables. The collective wealth of those gathered in the room is astonishing. Each individual has come to endure the inarticulate clamor of the auctioneer. His voice, in rapid cadence, rushes through the bidding process. The items of the family estate being auctioned this sunny afternoon are singular – paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Degas, Caravaggio, and the like, line the walls. Each individual has eyed their prize, already thinking about where it would hang best in their luxurious estates.
The paintings were collected by the son of a wealthy man of noble heritage. Combing the world over for the most rare and exquisite paintings, the collection of the son was the crown jewel of the family estate. World War II began, and the young man was sent off to fight for his country. The day arrived for his deployment; his Rolls-Royce glided down the tree lined lane – never to return. Within a few short weeks, the young man was killed in action, rushing to aid one of the many friends he quickly made.
Summer leaves quickly faded; snow draped the horizon as Christmas arrived. The joyous season and holiday cheer this year was overshadowed by the loss of the father’s pride and joy. Past smiles and merry laughter that the walls of the estate once jubilantly radiated now haunted the old man. The same treasured memories that have the ability to evoke an involuntary smile can also stab deeper than can be expressed.
The gentlemen elected that he would not celebrate this Christmas – how could he? Going about his morning as if it were any other day, there was an unscheduled ring at the door. The butler soon entered the room, being shadowed by a lingering figure in crisp military uniform.
With a large box at his side, the young soldier introduced himself as a friend of the old man’s son – the soldier was rescued by the sacrifice of the son. Explaining that he had now embarked on a career as a painter, he opened the large box. Proudly the soldier unveiled a portrait. As a token of his gratefulness to the son, the soldier had spent months painting a portrait to present to the old man. The painting was nothing in comparison to the priceless relics that lined the walls – it was of meager form and detail, but its intrinsic value meant more to the old man than all the works in the estate. Quickly the painting was lifted to the central place in the room, above the fireplace, bumping Monet’s Arrival of the Normandy Train out of the location of prominence. It was the old man’s favorite piece in the priceless collection. He would quickly usher guests and friends into the cavernous room to show them the work.
The next year the old man passed away, having no heir, the collection was to be auctioned off, and art collectors the world over had gathered in anticipation to get their hands on the works. Finally, the moment arrived, and the auction started with the subpar painting of the old man’s son. The hushed laughter of the most prestigious art collectors in the world was obvious. The auctioneer started the bidding at $100. Silence filled the room. Voices of protest quickly arose as to why the painting was being sold – nobody wanted the modest painting. The auctioneer protested.
One gentleman in the back of the room – a friend of the family – voiced that he would pay $10 for the painting. Going once. Going twice. Sold. A sigh echoed in the room; finally to the good stuff. The auctioneer announced that the action was now closed and thanked the individuals for coming. Rage filled the room! What about all of the real paintings? This was the most talked about auction in the art world, and it never even began. The auctioneer hushed the crowd and replied that the reason was simple, the old man had put it in his will that whoever gets the Son gets it all.
* * * * *
I’m currently reading an amazing book by Dr. John Gottman and Joan DeClaire (2001) entitled The Relationship Cure. The book discusses what Gottman calls bids. “A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch – any single expression that says, ‘I want to feel connected to you’” (p. 4). His concept is in the context of interpersonal relationships and our personal quest for emotional attachment. A bid can be anything from "Want to get lunch,” “Will you grab my keys,” “What’s wrong,” “You’re beautiful,” to more monumental bids like “Will you marry me?” Gottman and DeClaire argue that strong relationships are built one bid at a time. I’m not going to go into all the details of the theory, Gottman already does it brilliantly, but I believe the point is imperative for us to understand.
Gottman and DeClaire (2001) explain that there are three ways to respond to a bid: Turning towards (“Will you grab my keys?” “Sure, do you need anything else?” – did you notice that a bid is met with another bid?), Turning away (“Will you grab my keys?” … “You get them” or no response and the individual walks out to the car), and Turning Against (“Will you grab my keys?” “No! Get your own keys” or “I’m not your slave; get them yourself”). The complexity of bidding is obvious, but you see the pattern here of how this works.
Throughout the book I keep coming back to thinking about the theory through the context of my relationship with God – your relationship with God.
Have you ever considered the fact that Scripture refers to God in the metaphor of language (Zacharias, 1998, p. 44)? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, ESV). My words dutifully aligned in the proper structure and style (hopefully) on this page are there for the reason of conveying the thought that I want to get across. There is a chasm of thought that lies between us and it’s words that cross that divide. Words are the vehicles that ideas and meaning travel on – try to communicate without words (sign language has its own words, mind you).
Communication without words is practically impossible. So, we come back to the metaphor of God being “the Word” and we stumble upon the beautiful realization that God wants to communicate with you – God bids with you. In Jeremiah 33:3 the Lord tells the prophet, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (English Standard Version). In case you didn’t see it, the verse contains a bid “Call to me and I will answer you” this is an example of a bid between God and the prophet Jeremiah – He’s bidding with you today.
Let’s take this one step further though and consider Gottman and DeClaire’s theory of bidding and responding. “We also learned that once bidders are ignored or rejected, they usually give up trying to connect in the same way again… Among people in stable marriages, spouses re-bid just 20 percent of the time” (Gottman & DeClaire, 2001, p. 18).
I firmly believe that God is daily speaking to us, but the question arises of whether we are responding to his bids. C.S. Lewis brilliantly said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” My friend, have we gone deaf to the voice of God? Have we spent so much time turning away or turning against his bids that he's slowly, reluctantly stopping the process of bidding with us? His bidding is that still small voice that can so easily be drowned out by the cares of life. It is that prick of conviction in your heart during the middle of the pastor’s sermon or that bid of guilt after you know you’ve done wrong. God is merciful, and his patience far exceeds our own, but he won't bid forever. Every missed bid is one closer to the last. Please, don't ignore the bids of God – don’t ignore that silent voice or the altar’s tug.
God’s greatest bid, however, took place one morning just outside of Jerusalem. Jesus was nailed to a cross and carried to a tomb. It was a bid so powerful that it conquered death, it purchased enteral life – for you. As the story at the beginning of this post concluded, “whoever gets the Son gets it all.” My friend, it was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that secured eternal life for each of us. Eternity is far more valuable than a collection of paintings, but the truth remains, you can have abundant life because of the Son of God.
I urge you today, respond to that bid – respond to God’s daily bids.
Gottman, J., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The relationship cure: A five-step guide for building better connections with family, friends, and lovers. New York: Crown.
Zacharias, R. K. (1998). Cries of the heart: Bringing God near when He feels so far. Nashville: Word Pub.
(The story at the beginning of the post is from an unknown author. I've taken the story and put it in my own words and style).