Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doing to Know

There are thousands of self-help manuals available for us today.  My favorite is a set of books from the "For Dummies" series.  That is basically how I feel about most things that I currently do not know how to do.  One of my great weaknesses is that I am quick to not do things that I don't know how to do.  But the problem is just reading instructions doesn't suddenly make me capable.

You can't learn to ride a bike by reading about it.  It requires you actually getting on the bike and pedaling.  And when you eventually learn, it is a skill that really never leaves you.  The subconscious mind integrates the sense of balance and propulsion in the permanent recesses of your brain so that it actually becomes impossible to remember what it felt like to NOT know how to bike. 

All the books and well diagramed instructions do not suddenly make you an expert, or, even capable of completing a task.  Practice and repetition are the only tools we have available to us to go from non-bike riders to Lance Armstrong(I wanted to pick a non-drug user...but seriously, who knows a clean biker....let alone another biker at all.....)

How would you respond to someone refusing to learn to ride a bike until they had read enough books and grasped all the nuances of balance and physics?  This is clearly an absurd demand to make before you get on a bike and start trying.  It is wildly unhelpful to set such a high bar of "understanding" without actually engaging and experiencing the thrill of actually riding a bike.  My son was really stand offish about his bike for almost a year.  Just in the past month he discovered how much fun it is and now he wants to do it every day.  For the longest time he avoided it because it seemed scary.  All the explanations in the world didn't change his mind....then...he actually tried it. 

Understanding God, grasping the Gospel, engaging with Scripture is a daunting task.  Even Paul in Philippians talks about how even he struggles with the mystery of how he, a sinner, gets to participate in the Gospel of the Cross.  Yet we often keep God at a distance because we don't "get" everything.  Before we come to Christ we want every nuance and detail explicitly spelled out.  And until it is done to OUR satisfaction...no dice.

If we really lived out that mindset in our lives we would be a bunch of non-bike riders.  Even as we watch others fly by us on their magical two wheeled contraptions we would refuse to even put hands to handle bars. 

In John 7:14-24 Jesus is teaching at the Temple and causing quite a commotion.  Everyone wants to know where He gets off speaking with such authority.  What does Jesus respond?  "If anyone desires to do God's will, they will know whether the teaching is from God or I am speaking on my own authority"(John 7:17). 

The pre-requisite for knowing God's will is the desire to do God's will.  The practical engagement of this is found in the "action" of desiring to do God's will.  Meaning, if you desire to do God's will, then you WILL do God's will.  Jesus is expanding the understanding of God's will and revelation to people and as they feel challenged by it, he puts the burden on the listeners.  If they want to know if what they are hearing is true, they have to be first engaged in doing what they already know to be true. 

If you expect all your questions and problems to be answered in nice concise ways BEFORE you engage....you are going to miss the boat.  When doubts assail you and your heart is struggling, do what you do know.  Can I answer the question for you about what happened to the ancient Australian Aborigine from 3000 BC?  No.  But does the lack of an "adequate" answer justify the jettisoning of what else you know is true?  Of course not.

To know how to ride a bike, you have to get on it and find out that it is good.  To know God's will and His truth you have to engage with what you do know and you may just may be finding yourself flying down the road with the wind in your hair. 

All the books in the world with all the answers in the world will not help you know what is true if your heart does not first desire to know God's will. 

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