How Do You Know What You Know?

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Your faith in God takes all your days and then some…

I’ve just spent the week trying to explain a very abstract concept to my students. The world that we’ve made to live in, a world full of relationships, expectations, rules, feelings, organization and dreams is as real as the natural world all around us. The guilt your dad can make you feel is as real as that river rushing by. But as real as it is, it’s socially constructed, so…unlike the rainstorm that hits at just the wrong time, our man-made reality can be changed and improved.

I encounter God in dozens of ways each week. He reveals himself through social experiences with family friends and strangers.

What we come to believe about God is planted in us by all the people around us our whole lives. Our parents, teachers, friends are essential in helping communicate to us what it means to believe. These people and the social institutions they inhabit (family, church and friendship) are all used by God to strengthen our grasp of eternity.

What we know about God comes from other people. We often expand what we believe as we grow and add new experiences to our menu. As we meet new people and increase our general and specific knowledge of the world around us, our experience of God changes. God doesn’t change. That’s what get’s confusing. As we change, we mistake that experience and come to believe that God is the one that is different.

When I was a child, I spoke, thought, and reasoned in childlike ways as we all do. But when I became a man, I left my childish ways behind.  For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal. I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God.  But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love.

– I Corinthians 13:11-13 (The Voice)

  1. Are you growing up (maturing) in what you know and experience about God? – Do you need to stop what you’re doing and START doing something different, right now?
  2. Do you understand and communicate to others that what you do know is only partial? – If not, change the way you are speaking. If you can’t hear the way you are speaking, ask your spouse to tell you. Stop talking so much and start listening to others. Stop feeling like you have to solve other people’s problems or have an answer all the time. You don’t really have to be God’s number one spokesperson. Just be you. Be authentic.
  3. When you experience God and pass this on to others is it characterized by faith, hope and love? You aren’t trying to fix everyone, are you? Everyone needs more of these gifts. Are you getting out of your private world and spreading your experience to others?

“Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen. Otherwise it will be too easy for you to look with blame… at your past, which naturally has a share with everything that now meets you.”  ― Rainer Maria Rilke

How Could I Have Gotten it So Wrong?

553db62f-d3ff-45ba-9eda-0770aa6751e6When was the last time you came to the realization that you had been wrong the whole time? Was it a misunderstanding with your spouse or a friend? A decision at work or about your personal finances?

I don’t do it enough…think about the way I’m thinking…the way I’m believing…

Have you got God all figured out yet?

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – I Corinthians 13: 12

Mirrors back then were not like the one you have today or the ones we use to see distant galaxies. They were like looking at shimmering puddle of water.

We all carry around so many biases in our thinking.

  • Confirmation bias – the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
  • Self-serving bias perceiving oneself responsible for desirable outcomes but not responsible for undesirable ones.
  • Just-world phenomenon – the tendency for people to believe that the world is just and therefore people “get what they deserve.”

We end up believing that we know much more than we really do. Sometimes we run the risk of making big assumptions about how God thinks and will act. We interpret our circumstances with a biased thinking that clouds our faith.

Do you imagine that Jonah (the rebel) believed he was being delivered when he found himself inside that big fish? Did Zacchaeus (the spectator) really think Jesus would find him up in that tree and they would actually sit down to dinner? What about that woman (the outsider) who went to draw her water at the well and had a conversation with a stranger who challenged all of her assumptions about life?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine…”  – Isaiah 55:8

  • I thought all the big plans for the future were null and void and then, over time, began to just want today.
  • I thought I was in exile, but then came to see that I was kept safely away from the devastating storm.
  • I thought I was all alone but then one day awakened to the realization that I had been in conversation with someone deep in my heart every single moment.

While I’m not a Christian fatalist, I don’t believe everything happens for a reason…Nor am I one who holds God responsible for all that occurs in this world. I’ve made too many messes to ever think I could get away with blaming Him. I do think God loves me. I know that he will guide my steps. I believe that he will take care of me – keep me from drowning, even when I’m too afraid to walk on the water.

My experiences here in this world can never become absolute reality. This mirror is too dim. I make so many mistakes. But I really can take hold of the promises that God has made and then make it day by day. In so doing (it’s a practice) this will transform the way I think about myself, my circumstances, and all the people I meet along the way.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.  – I Peter 1:4-5

What kind of response does God deserve today?