Sunday, January 25, 2009

QUESTIONS: The wisdom of ignorance (part two)

PLEASE NOTE: start here for part one of this wound-up-being-way-longer-than-I-intended blog that I clearly needed to break in half. I know you people. More than that, I know your attention span…

Many times – be it in terms of our faith or in terms of how to change a car battery – we ask questions because (a) we either want an – or, preferably, THE – authoritative answer (“Was the earth created in seven days?”), and/or because (b) we simply don’t know the answer and may not even know how to start to look for the answer.

However, oftentimes we don’t fully understand the total depth of what we’re asking or we don’t quite “get” the response given to us because we can’t fully understand the answer we get without first understanding where our question and/or the answer we get comes from.

This is why sometimes, people HATE to ask me questions (and by “people,” I mean Ashley specifically). Ashley sometimes regrets asking me about things I know quite a bit of useless trivia over, because more times than not she will get a response that is more than she bargained for. More in terms of details. More in terms of back-story. More of putting the response in a historical, cultural, and/or contextual framework. Why? Because for me, sometimes the true response, the true answer to a question has to be taken and seen through a specific lens, or set of lenses. It’s all about the narrative.

Not so much in my case (because, as we all know, I’m just darn near perfect), but one of the reasons we may be reluctant to actually own up to our own ignorance and be afraid to say “I don’t know” in response to a question is that we don’t want to be seen as ignorant by other people.

To me, ignorance is not a cardinal sin – it may simply be that there is a situation or predicament I am questioned about or confronted with wherein which I literally have no basis from prior experience upon which to figure out how to go, where to go, how to proceed or how to react. Staying in ignorance after being given the opportunity to grow and/or after being given wisdom about a situation – THAT’s the problem.

A little over a month from now, my son will be born. A little over a month ago, my father died. I don’t really have a baseline of data to pull from in terms of my own experiences on how to react to either of these situations. But, had I just stayed shut down after my dad died and not been there for my family…that’s the problem. If I just look at Ashley and tell her I don’t know how to change diapers, raise a kid or be a good dad and use my ignorance over my inexperience as my excuse to not get involved in his life…that’s the problem.

Have you ever asked someone for advice or guidance and you have to really dig to get at what might be the true response to your questions? While I know that this is painting with a remarkably broad brush (and could be seen as somewhat heretical in light of the political fervor the country is currently in) – but watch a politician try and give a concrete answer to a question. Go re-read some of the old Calvin and Hobbes strips to see the answer Calvin’s dad gives in response to some of his questions. When confronted with a question we feel the NEED to respond to with more than an “I dunno” we tend to either talk so much that the answer, if any answer is given, gets swallowed up in our reply (ala politicians) or we just…make something up and sound like we’re more of an authority than we actually are (ala Calvin’s dad).

To look at this through a faith perspective – Christ Himself loved getting questions from people while He was here on earth interacting with folks. Think about it – when people came to Him with questions, how many times did He refuse to answer them (even though they might not have first understood the answer given to them – see John 8)? How many times did He have a less-than-kind word for the people who spoke on their own authority as an authority on God (the Pharisees, etc)?

The first recorded instance of Christ Himself speaking in the Bible comes in the form of a question: in Luke 2:49, Jesus asks, “Why were you looking for me?” In the New Living Translation, this is translated as: “But why did you need to search?” The first question – the first sentence – recorded as having been spoken by Christ is the sentence He ultimately asks all of us: why are you looking for Me? Why were His parents looking for Him? Better yet – why are we looking for Him? Are we looking for Him? Is He hiding?

Actually it turns out that WE are the ones hiding. Although God had spoken the world into existence with words (statements, not questions; can you imagine the radical difference between how the world was created as opposed to if the Trinity had just stated, “Hey – do We want to make man in Our own image? How about those “fish” things – You guys wanna make ‘em or…?”), just as with Jesus, the first recorded instance of God asking a question in the Bible comes with His interactions with us.

Although I don’t know how much can be read into this – the first instance of God asking a question didn’t occur until after sin had entered the world. Until after we fell. In Genesis 3:9, God simply asks, “Where are you?” Now, I personally think that God fully knew what had happened, what was going on, and it wasn’t as if Adam and Eve had thrown on an Invisibility Cloak or something. Our sin did not make us drop off God’s radar to where He can’t find us. Nor does our sin to this day do that.

God wants to know where we are. Why are we hiding? Why should we hide? What’s our motivation to hide?

Jesus asks why we’re looking for Him. Why do we seek Him?

Hide. Seek.

What, or Who, are we hiding from? What, or Who, are we looking for?

For me, these questions will somewhat define 2009 for me. These may be the key questions I ask this year. And I hope I have the strength to not hide from what I am shown or learn, and that the wisdom I am given over the choices I need to make keep me on a seeker’s path.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

QUESTIONS: The wisdom of ignorance (part one)

At the start of this year, the guy who is the pastor of the church I attend here in Miami told us that the single most important question we could ask this year would be “Is this the wise choice to make?” We are to ask this in light of any situation presented to us – seeing if wisdom would prevail. Moreso, seeing if we would trust the wisdom grated to us by God and be willing to actually act on the wisdom granted to us; there are a number of times that God has given me the wisdom and guidance I need, but me in my hardheadedness routinely opts to ignore the wisdom presented to me. I’m just a rebellious little cuss like that.

When he first posed this as THE question to ask this year, I thought to myself then, as I still do to a degree now, “Dude – you’re wrong.” For me, there are a number of other questions that could be seen as just as pressing as the one he posed: “Is this milk expired?” “Can I still wear those jeans?” “Is the island moving just in time or in space also?” From both a theological and practical standpoint, while I don’t see his question as THE most important one to ask all year long with every decision I would make, I do agree with the manner in which he suggested we think about our choices.

See – what he did (intentionally or not – hey, there’s some evidence of Divine Intervention here) was say that we should ask in advance “Is this the wise choice to make,” and NOT to look at the decision before us, weigh the options, make a decision, and then state “This is the wise choice to make.” While some people might argue that this is just a matter of semantics, there’s also something much, much deeper there:

One is a statement. One is a question.

And since at church, they’re wrapping up a series on Character, I find it amazingly refreshing – again, intentional or not – that it’s implied that questioning things is not seen as a character flaw, nor is it seen as a bad thing to do.

Or, as I like to look at it – there is wisdom in ignorance. There is a bit of maturity in not acting as an authority on every situation presented and making a declaration as someone who would instinctively know how to act on something. It’s not a character flaw to simply say “I don’t know.” Many people are simply afraid to be seen as someone who isn’t an authority on any choice, situation, or circumstance presented before them. They may believe they’ll be seen as something less than what they may in fact think they’re supposed to be seen as.

Me? I love not knowing everything. It keeps me humble, reminds me of the feet of clay I have, makes me less likely to simply depend on myself for everything and not seek out the counsel and fellowship of others, and I quite honestly love learning. Even if it’s learning about something I know a great deal about, but learning it from a new perspective, from a new voice.

I’ve held a lifetime fascination with the idea of questions and faith. Partially because I was raised to believe that questioning anything runs counter to the idea of and application of faith (“If your faith was stronger, you wouldn’t questions”), but also because I’ve come to understand that those questions that keep me up late at night and make me write really long, rambly blogs about are central TO my faith and to my relationship with God.

[And since this is getting a little long...END OF PART ONE – COME BACK SOON FOR PART TWO]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NOT a post about the inauguration, actually...

I just wanted to pop in to offer a few choice bits of information:

(1) No, I have NOT stopped blogging/posting to the Windshield. Travel plans, holidays, and a period of mourning kinda 86-ed a lot of my plans to post new stuff on here. In deference to my rural roots, I needed to let this lay fallow for a season in order to let it be able to grow something new.

(2) On that note...I will be speaking again (for the first time in a LOOONG time) at Mosaic here in Miami on Sunday, February 8. Since the church is currently going through a series on Character (for lack of a better term), I've got three ideas I might be speaking on.

(3) No, we don't have a name for the baby yet (due mid/late March). YOU try coming up with something that sounds/feels right with "Lemmons" as a last name. It's not as easy as you might think. Plus, this kid'll be stuck with this name for life. No pressure.

(4) No, I still don't own a Blu-Ray player. This is considered sacrilidge amongst many of my people (nerds). As much as I want one - I just can't seem to justify in my mind getting one right now. Maybe the next time I swing by Best Buy I will think differently. :)

(5) LOST Season 5 premiere this Wednesday. Weekly post-LOST migraine on Thursday.

Now go grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and watch history unfold on your TV. And remember this day - it will be up there with the othere televised landmark events of the last few decades: the moon landing, the Challenger explosion, etc.

Yeah. My kid'll think I'm just that cool 'cause I was alive to see this happen live.