Tag Archives: Ignorance

The Difference a Dinner Makes

So [the king of Israel] prepared a great feast for the [Aramean soldiers], and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
2 Kings 6:23 (NIV)

As Wendy and I sit each morning over breakfast and peruse the news of the day, we will often discuss different politicians or other individuals making headlines. Of course, there are always certain individuals for whom we have a certain affinity but we don’t always have the most glowing impressions of other individuals.

I’m not sure how and when this happened, but Wendy and I will commonly discuss the notion of having said individuals over for a meal. I think this idea began during a Presidential campaign years ago. A few months ahead of the Iowa Caucuses you can’t spit without hitting a visiting presidential candidate. One year when the number of candidates was off the charts, Wendy and I discussed the idea of how nice it would be to actually have each of the candidates (from any/all parties) over for dinner one at a time. It’s easier to really get to know a person over a good meal and good table conversation. Somehow, the idea stuck and now it comes up quite regularly in our conversations, what it would be like to have so-and-so over for dinner.

Today’s chapter is filled with extreme events from the miraculous to a horrific human tragedy. I have no recollection of this quiet little episode stuck in the middle. The kingdom of Aram shared a border with the kingdom of Israel, and bands of Aramean soldiers were constantly raiding the towns of Israel. Elisha miraculously blinds one of these raiding parties and leads them straight into Samaria, the capital city of Israel. When the king of Israel suggests killing them, Elisha instructs him to treat them to a feast instead.

So, the king of Israel treats the enemy soldiers as honored guests. They sat around the table and enjoyed a feast together. I imagine they swapped stories, laughed together, and got to know one another to a certain degree. The Arameans, knowing they could have been killed, were treated the way Jesus would later instruct His followers to treat our enemies, by blessing those who intend to persecute us. The result? The border raids stopped.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded of the conference Wendy and I attended this past week that addressed some of the most controversial and divisive topics of our day. One of the most powerful things that the conference accomplished was to share the complex and intimate stories of individuals struggling at the heart of the issue. When issues are translated into human stories, it changes both my perceptions and understanding of the issues themselves. It’s the same principle that the king of Israel and the Aramean soldiers discovered. They came to bust heads and instead broke bread. It changed their attitudes and behavior toward their enemies.

(BTW: Another Presidential election cycle begins later this year. For any candidate who happens to read this, there’s an open dinner invitation here at Vander Well manor! 😉)

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“Yet, I Will Rejoice”

"Yet, I Will Rejoice" (CaD Hab 3) Wayfarer

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)

Today’s final chapter of Habakkuk contains the lyrics to a psalm that Habakkuk wrote in response to his two-question dialogue with God in the first two chapters. Habakkuk is an ancient multi-media prophecy with two chapters that are almost like the script of a play and ending with a song.

Habakkuk has been warned by God that He is going to bring judgment on His unrepentant people by bringing the Babylonians down upon them. Habakkuk would have known what this meant. The Babylonians, along with their neighbors the Assyrians, had a reputation for violent sieges that destroyed and plundered cities while violently killing the citizens within. But God also promised Habakkuk that the Babylonians themselves would face their own day of judgment.

As I read and pondered the prophet’s lyrics in the quiet this morning, there were a couple of things that struck me.

First, I couldn’t help but see echoes of John’s Revelations in the apocalyptic, doomsday images. Plague and pestilence in verse 5 brought the four horsemen of John’s apocalypse to mind. Earthquakes, mountains crumbling, along with other natural calamities were also in Revelations along with God arriving with wrath. So was John writing about Judah and Babylon, or was he writing about the end times? As I’ve observed before, the metaphors of prophetic and apocalyptic writing are layered with meaning. As I have often observed on this chapter-a-day journey, the answer is “yes/and.”

The second thing that came to mind as I meditated on Habakkuk’s psalm is that he knows God is going to first bring wrath upon His own people and then will eventually execute judgment on the Babylonians. Habakkuk, however, is just like me knowing that the end times will eventually come yet not knowing when. He’s ignorant. His psalm reminds God “In your wrath [on your people] remember mercy” (vs.2) and he gives a nod to God eventually delivering His people (vs. 13) but the rest of the song seems pretty focused on the evil Babylonians getting their just desserts.

I found this to be particularly human on Habakkuk’s part. He knows God is going to bring consequential wrath on the Hebrew people, but Habakkuk doesn’t want to think too much about that. He conveniently skips that part and jumps to God’s deliverance while he waxes apocalyptic about God’s wrath on the Babylonians for most of the song. I have to confess that I’m no different. I don’t want to think about suffering or having to endure hard times or experiencing judgment. I do, however, want to see swift judgment and fiery wrath raining down on those I have judged to be evil on my own personal scales of justice. As I’ve seen oft-quoted in the media of late: “Rules for thee but not for me.”

Yet it’s the end of Habakkuk’s song that, just like the psalmists before him, brings everything together in a pretty amazing statement of faith. He does embrace the notion that he may personally suffer as God makes good on His promised judgment. It’s the beautiful statement of faith I pasted at the top of this post

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

In the quiet this morning, I confess that I identify with these ancient words. We are living in strange times. Things are changing at a rapid pace. Times are difficult and I have no guarantees that even more difficult times aren’t ahead of us on this terrestrial ball…

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Struggle for Spiritual Perception

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

“You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand?”

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Matthew 16:3, 8-9, 23 (NIV)

Over the winter months this chapter-a-day trek journeyed through the writings of the ancient prophet Isaiah. One of the many relevant and memorable take aways for me from that trek was this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

On my ceaseless pursuit to observe and plug-in to the flow of what God is doing around me, I am constantly aware of my finite limitations to see, perceive, and know. Today’s chapter is another good reminder.

The religious leaders came with their hearts and minds closed, testing Jesus by asking for a “sign from heaven,” as if all the miracles Jesus had publicly performed were not evidence enough. Jesus walked away. “You don’t get it.”

The disciples had now been following Jesus for some time. They’d been continuously, listening, following, learning, and working together. Jesus had spoken incessantly in parables and word pictures for months. He’d even interpreted parables for them on a constant basis. The boys still couldn’t make the mental shift to think in metaphor. You can almost hear Jesus’ frustration when he says, “You still don’t understand?”

Peter even makes a huge declarative leap of faith to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. Yet in the very next moment Peter proves how little he really knows as he tries to get in the way of Jesus’ real mission. “Peter, you’re only seeing from your own self-centered perspective. You really have no clue.”

Those who didn’t really want to see remained blind.
Those who really wanted to see still didn’t fully perceive.
The one who saw in part still revealed a skewed perspective.

This morning I’m reminded of what little I see, how poorly I perceive, and how skewed that perception can be from my own self-interested perspectives. I’d like to stand in judgment thinking that I’m more open than the religious leaders, sharper than the dull-witted disciples, and more perceptive than Peter. But, I confessed earlier in this post that I’m ceaselessly pursuing, seeking, and struggling to perceive. I certainly have no room to judge.

My prayer today is that I can honestly embrace God’s message through Isaiah. I don’t fully perceive the mind of God, nor do I comprehend all that God does. At least today’s chapter reminds me that I’m in good company.

I take solace in the fact that Jesus did not reject His motley crew of followers or strip Peter of the mantel of leadership that He’d just laid on the ol’ bass master. Jesus urged His followers on, and they changed the world. I think I’ll just keep pressing on and pursuing God’s flow despite my acute lack of perception. Maybe God will use me to accomplish a little something along the journey, as well.

Featured  photo courtesy of Jenny-pics via Flickr

Out of Ignorance Stream Ignorant Words

English: An early engraving by Blake for the B...
English: An early engraving by Blake for the Book of Job (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you know that we do not know?
    What insights do you have that we do not have?
Job 15:9 (NIV)

The journey for Wendy and me to try and conceive a child was a long one. I can’t even recount in a simple summary how much was involved medically, emotionally, and relationally for both of us. As a blogger and active participant in social media I found myself, in the early stages of the process, sharing in broad terms and hints what we were going through. It didn’t take me long to stop, to close in, and to begin withholding information from any but the most intimate of friends. I quickly learned that the most well-intentioned people can say some of the most hurtful things. People who speak out of ignorance say ignorant things.

I thought about that this morning as I read the words of Eliphaz, who brings his next argument to the debate between Job and his friends. Eli’s anger is rising. He is uncomfortable with the questions Job is asking and his discomfort motivates him to go on the attack. I was struck when I came to the question above. My playwright and actor’s brain began to script Job’s thoughts.

What do you know that we do not know?

“Are you kidding me, Eli? Let’s start with with the obvious. Last I knew, your children were living and healthy. Do you know what it’s like to lose all of your children in the blink of an eye? Have you gone through that? Do you even have an f-ing CLUE what it feels like to receive the gut-punch news telling you that your children, ALL OF THEM, are dead?

“When was the last time you found health gone and puss-seeping sores all over your body, Eli? I don’t remember visiting you on an ash heap.

“Oh, and please tell me about the time you lost your life savings and everything for which you toiled your entire life! If so, please share. If not, then shut up.

“What do I know that you don’t know? E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!”

One of the things I learned through our journey was the importance of keeping my mouth shut and my ears open with friends and loved ones who are going through trials I have never experienced. Even when I have experienced some of the same or similar things, I remind myself in the presence of the suffering that it’s not about me. My role is to quietly step in, to be present, to listen, and to love. Those who are walking the path of suffering know a present reality of which I am completely ignorant. I need to respect that.

Comfort

English: Comfort in Grief
English: Comfort in Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And E′phraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him.
1 Chronicles 7:22 (NSRVCE)

The first funeral I ever officiated was for a nine week old infant. I was a snot-nosed kid right out of college. The grieving parents, barely older than me, sat zombie-like through our initial meeting and through the service. I don’t remember what I said, though I’m quite sure it was canned and safe and perfectly inadequate for the moment. I didn’t have a clue what they were going through and I wasn’t sure what to say or how to love them well in their grief.

Along life’s road there are many different tragic experiences that can be both painful and isolating. I have experienced a few of them myself. Wendy and I have experienced a few of them together. Some of life’s tragedies are isolating because they are not understood, or can be grossly misunderstood by others. People love you. They care about you, but they feel awkward and inadequate in their ignorance about what you’re going through. Rather than saying something inappropriate and stupid, unsure how you’ll react if they bring up the subject, they choose to simply not say anything at all.

I was struck this morning by the one sentence I pasted above which is stuck in the midst of E’phraim’s genealogical record. E’phraim had lost his sons to ancient cattle rustlers. His brothers coming to him in his grief and provide comfort was, I thought, a beautiful picture. To be honest it reminded me of times when I was comforted in my pain, and other times when I’ve felt completely alone.

Today, I’m thankful for those who have had the courage to step through the veil awkwardness and ignorance to provide presence, love, and comfort in some of the darkest moments of my journey. Today, I’m recommitting myself to returning the favor.