HUMILITY AND GRACE
Obtuseness can be found in individuals in families and communities. But it need not be found in anyone. With Christ as our life we can be full of grace and truth, expanding in our spirit not just with the mellowness of age but with the grace and pleasantness of Jesus Christ.
My mother was one of these. She was well-read and intelligent but not tertiary educated. She was perceptive and aware of both wise folks and fools. Never opinionated like some of the bizarre women I have known, she kept an open mind into her old age. She once remarked to a pastor, not short on ego who said to her, ‘I thought up that sermon on my way out from town.’ Mum replied, ‘It sounded like it!’
She was not one of those who talked because they could and she possessed an acute social awareness. Consequently she was not apt to release the boorish streams of muddy thought that can reveal us as ignorant and a bigot.
Mum had an open mind and a wonderful sense of humour. She was often to be seen in the kitchen convulsed with laughter at some happening on the farm or in response to some observation someone had made about something or someone.
Mum listened, had a good attention span and when she did say something it was worth listening to. She didn’t utter straws in the wind, fill a room with hay and was not boorish.
I thought of this as I came across these lines in a book by Jack Deere. “Although he was raised in an environment that produced hard workers, not critical thinkers, Dad was both. He knew the answer to every question I ever asked him.” (1) Mum did not know the answer to every question and did not pretend to as some suburban matrons can. Nevertheless she had a quiet wisdom and a formidable mind.
I spent my early years surrounded by certain figures of monumental stubbornness and ego. Ignorance can be a choice - born of an ego that is ahead of intelligence and crippled by an unwarranted confidence in the self and one’s opinions. Anyone can advance in understanding and flexibility of mind if one is willing to listen, read a little and be gracious enough to concentrate when informed people are speaking.
EFFORT AND PERCEPTIVENESS
It’s not ‘knowing the answer to any question asked of him’ that I found impressive about Deere’s dad. It’s that he was a hard worker and a critical thinker. If we are not a little adept at critical thinking it means that we are more like a piece of debris floating down a muddy creek than a green tree with lots of interesting fruit.
Wisdom or the lack of it is revealed in our talk. We do well to speak within our authority. I am not a mechanic because I have a stilson in my car tool box and you are definitely not a theologian because you are a carpenter with a Bible.
If we are too lazy or fearful to seek truth where it lies, we can take up the role of a conservative, hide in a 44 gallon drum and shout ‘Don’t change anything!’ through the bung hole. But our minds and our humanity will shrink and our candle will smoke and go out.
DOLPHIN OR MOLLUSK
One fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’ The other fool has said ‘the thoughts of my own are my god.’ One of the silliest things we can do is to create a Jesus and ‘another gospel’ in our own image. This is a great way to create a false christ and an abysmal way to represent the Kingdom of Life.
If we are to grow and advance as people who are full of grace and truth we need to follow where Jesus leads unconditionally, not be addicted to our own ideas, not captured inside the boundaries other people drew for us and not obsessed with the identity we think we have in some religious community.
Unless we are addicted to an identity and a life in Jesus our ability to be touched by infinite spirit, truth and life will be curtailed and we will end up being more like molluscs and oysters than we are sons and daughters of God.
(1) Deere, Jack S.. Even in Our Darkness (p. 16). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.