Controlling metaphor = wheel hub

By Dave Henning / September 13, 2023

“Think of a controlling metaphor as the hub of a wheel, with all the spokes connected to that hub.  The controlling metaphor anchors the concept and conversation. . . .  There is incredible power in identifying the controlling metaphor for your life.  These metaphors give us a common language, clear direction, and a firm foundation.”- Kyle Idleman

Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 1 of When Your Way Isn’t Working as he stresses that we need to focus on connection to Jesus when nothing we do is working.  Most significantly, the Greek word meno, translated as “remain” or “abide” (ESV) shows up eleven times in John 5:1-15.

Therefore, Jesus tells His followers again and again about their need to stay connected to Him.  No matter what.  We must never forget to stay connected.

Certainly, Pastor Idleman notes, Scripture contains dozens of metaphors.  However, only a handful carry the designation of controlling metaphor – ones extended throughout the entire text.  In addition, we find a prime example in this poem by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope is a thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.”

In conclusion, Kyle states, such metaphors provide us with a different lens.  Hence, they change the way we see our circumstances.  Jesus did this for His disciples in the conversation John recorded in Chapter 5.  Thus, Jesus gave His disciples – and us – something to hold on to when life gets hard.  And nothing seems to be working.

Therefore, as Pastor Idleman observes:

“Language like remaining, abiding, and staying connected doesn’t seem overly helpful.  My preference is to have a list of action steps and boxes to check. . . .  I want to be able to put in the work so I can fix what’s broken.  Staying connected seems too passive.  However, I’m learning the the personal practices that lead to connection require intentionality and work.  Connection doesn’t just happen.”

Today’s question: What controlling metaphor directs your outlook on life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The vine or the branch?”

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Dave Henning

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