Tuesday Re-mix –
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
Do you remember Magic 8 Balls? I do…that awesome Mattel toy (wow, just the name Mattel conjures up so many exciting feelings for several generations of Americans…Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels, Matchbox cars, and all those games!) that would answer any question you have about anything! Ask it any “yes” or “no” question and then shake it and, voilà, the answer would magically appear in the little window. “It is decidedly so”, “signs point to yes”, “Don’t count on it”, “Ask again later”…it was all very simple, really. We liked that about it. We got to set the agenda, we got to ask the questions we wanted answered…and if we didn’t like the answer, we could just shake it and ask again!
We’ve grown up now and we no longer rely on Magic 8 Balls to answer all our pressing questions. We realize, of course, how silly we were when we did that. Now, we have something much more powerful, something much more completely accurate to answer all our questions. Now we have the internet. The process still works the same way, of course, because it is a process we like, one we get to control. We simply log on and Google whatever our question is and, voilà, the answer magically appears on our screen. We like getting wisdom that way. It appeals to us. We set the agenda, we ask the questions, and we get the answer. We are powerful.
It is this notion of being in control and powerful, I think, that makes it so difficult for us to embrace the Bible (or a walk with Christ, for that matter). Oh, it is a book filled with all the wisdom we could ever need, but we don’t particularly like the process for retrieving it. We do not feel nearly as comfortable with receiving God’s wisdom, because we do not get to be in control of how it is imparted. More often than not, we don’t even get to ask the questions. Well, we can ask whatever questions we want, but they are probably not the right questions. And since we tend to ask all the wrong questions, God’s wisdom tends to confound and frustrate us, because He doesn’t necessarily dole it out to us on our terms and in response to our silly questions. Sure, we may have access to the highest intelligence in the universe, but we do not control how that wisdom is imparted. That is bothersome.
We are like the rich young ruler (Luke 18) who comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He asked a question about his life after his death. But Jesus’ answer had an entirely different focus. His answer, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” focused on the here and now, on this man’s life starting today. The young man didn’t like that wisdom. Neither do we.
It would be like asking the Magic 8 Ball a question and having it say, “You’re asking the wrong question…the question that really matters is…”. Let’s be honest, if Magic 8 Balls said that, nobody would buy them. And if our search engines did that, we would be looking for a new search engine…one that will play by our rules and answer the questions we want answered…because we are powerful.
But on a genuine faith walk with God, we do not get to set the agenda. We rarely even get answers to the questions we are asking, at least not when we want them and not the kind of answers we want. Rather, Jesus says, “Come follow me.” And it is in the following that we begin to get answers to questions we didn’t even know to ask. It is in the regular, daily dose of scripture that we begin to receive wisdom that matters. It is in the regular time in prayer that our perspectives on this world and our family and our neighbors and all our silly questions begin to change. And over time, before we even know it has happened, we have a profound understanding of things and we have a peace that surpasses all that understanding. We have something infinitely better than an answer to all our little questions and infinitely better than our own terms and our own agendas. We have God. We are not powerful. But He is…and we have Him.