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.

No comments: