Thursday, November 4, 2010

Do You Take Offense At This?

Can you feel it? The defensive attitude that creeps up in our hearts and minds as soon as the suggestion is raised that our understanding is very limited and flawed? It responds promptly with all sorts of objections, attempting to protect the belief that we are pretty good at figuring things out. It just can't be true that all the things we have taken the time to learn are that limited. We can't really be as ignorant of the world as children are! What a terrifying thought! Their knowledge leaves them so helpless and dependent, and so easy to take advantage of. We've matured far beyond that. We know much more about how the world works now. We've put a lot of thought into our beliefs and convictions and tested them many times.

Yes, and no. It's obviously true that we know more than children do. We find it very easy to correct them and we find their innocent efforts to understand things to be cute and even amusing. But we seem to have got hold of the idea that we are very far advanced in understanding now, and that there is not a lot of distance between us and very mature knowledge compared to the distance between us and what a child knows. That's our crucial mistake. We think that when we approach the Bible or learn to know God, we are adults. But when you consider how far above us in every way the Lord of all creation must be, then when you compare our relationship to children with what He knows, it makes us much more like the six-year-old explaining to his baby brother how he thinks the toilet works.

All our knowledge is valuable, and the time we took to gain it was well spent, but there is a great deal that still needs to be corrected and added to. The complexity of what we haven't learned yet is amazing. We have also gained a number of flawed ideas along the way just as we've gained true ideas. We may not like the realization that we are children in our understanding of reality, but it's true. There is so much that we don't know about the spiritual life that we depend heavily on someone to protect us and to provide for our needs just as children depend on others. If we don't approach God with the same attitude of dependence and trust that a child has for the parent that provides the child with the right food and warns the child that the stove is hot, we are not going to learn very much and we will get burned a lot.

Part of the reason we resist this is a lack of trust in God. Recognizing our own limitations forces us to depend on God, which is what the life of faith is all about. But we tend to feel threatened by the idea that we need to be dependent on anyone or anything - self-reliance and individuality are modern idols. That is why, in embracing our relationship with God, we have to learn to trust Him with everything instead of thinking we have life under control. We need to let go of the illusion that our knowledge is enough, and put our hope in God that He will take care of everything if we just listen to Him. It's Matthew 6:31-33 in action - seek first the kingdom of God, and He will provide everything you need.

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