One of the most difficult challenges of speaking for God is the threshing process. This is true whether you're a minister preparing a sermon each week, a chaplain trying to come up with the right words in a critical moment, a worship leader trying to transition from one song to the next, or just a person with a story. You have to figure out what to keep and what not to keep, what to say and what not to say.
Threshing grain is a pretty persistent image in the Bible. Not only are characters shown doing it, but it's talked about as a metaphor here and there. And a good one at that.
I've never threshed grain. But I'm willing to bet that it's a process much like every other - it's not a perfect science. I'm willing to bet that as you're out there, standing in the middle of the harvest, trying to break off chaff from wheat, a little bit of wheat falls into the chaff. A little bit of the good stuff you're trying to get out falls in with the rubbish, and you just have to let it go.
It can't, of course, be the other way around. You can't just let a little chaff fall in with the wheat. That would never work. The wheat is edible. It's delicious. It's nourishing. The chaff...well, that's not. Imagine the embarrassment of sitting around your ancient table with good friends, family, and perhaps a couple of visitors, serving your finest baked grain, when someone bites into a bit of chaff. The horror!
So you pull out every tiny little piece of chaff and throw it on the threshing floor, knowing you're also likely tossing out a bit of two of good wheat.
What am I saying? I'm saying that when you try to put together a message for God, when you try to figure out what it is that He'd have you say, you never end up saying all the things you think of. You never end up using all your material. There are some very good points that just...fall to the side as you continue to pull chaff off of the grain. There are some very good ideas that you leave on the floor, not because they are not good ideas, but because they're too close to chaff or maybe even attached to it, and it's just not a perfect science.
It's hard sometimes. It's hard because what ends up on the floor may be a great piece of grain. It may be a great word. It may be something that someone needs to hear. But it may also be not the word for this moment, it may be so wrapped up in chaff that it would taint your whole offering.
When we can't let go of these good pieces of grain, when we can't stop digging through the chaff to bring them out, we bring a little chaff back with us. We let a little rubbish come into the grain. And it's no good.
It changes the story we're telling. It takes us off down a tangent. It turns us down a different path. Sometimes, we have a beautiful thought that we just can't let go of, and when we can't let go of it, we let go of something else. We let our whole grain pile fall to the floor. We spill all our wheat into the chaff. Because we were going after the wrong thing, rather than guarding our harvest and the good work we've done up to this point.
Maybe you're working on a lesson on grace, and you have this great thought. This amazing thought. It's beautiful. The words are all there, and it just strikes your heart at the deepest level. But...it's not really about grace. It's kind of maybe about grace if you turn it just the right way, if you build up the story just right around it, if you squeeze a square peg into a round hole, if you tell your audience that it's a legitimate commentary because it's a thought you had while thinking about grace...but it's not about grace. It's about something else.
You can let your whole pile of grain fall to the floor in pursuit of this one thought you can't let go of, this one good thing you don't want to let lie in the chaff pile. You can pick it up hastily and throw it into the good grain. But no matter what you do, if you don't let this one thing lie, you bring chaff into your wheat. Every time. You lose focus. You lose poignancy. You lose perspective. Because you won't let this one thing fall.
Let it go. Yes, it's good. Yes, it's beautiful. But let it go. You can always come back to the threshing floor and dig around when you've done what you can with the good grain. But if you interrupt yourself now, if you stop yourself now, you're going to spend your whole prep time on your hands and knees, trying to pick wheat out of chaff, knowing you had it. You had it once. And you let it go, chasing one head of grain, one tiny head of grain....
It's one of the hardest things to do, but the most important. Because if you want to talk about grace, talk about grace. If you want to talk about love, talk about love. If you want to talk about mercy, talk about mercy.
If you want to offer your best grain, let the chaff go.