Time for a confession…
There is a feeling of uncomfortable dissonance that occurs inside of me when I’m weighing a new idea. A twinge of guilt, like I’m breaking an unspoken rule. I hear this voice in my head that says, “good kids simply accept the answers they are given and don’t ask why.” I’m not sure where I learned that, but it somehow stuck.
But I couldn’t help the questions from coming. I couldn’t just nod and move on. I wanted to know where the idea came from, why it was there, and what were the limits of its virtue.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that this is how my brain is hardwired. My top 5 Strengths Finder results are intellection, ideation, strategic, input, and futuristic. All five fit into the category of strategic thinking. Oh, and learner is number 7. What that means is I’m extremely one sided. Most people have a balance of different strengths from a variety of different leadership quadrants. Not me. I’m five for five.
I tell you that because I’m finally learning to get comfortable with the fact that this isn’t going to change. This is how I’m built. I’m always hungry for new ideas. New ideas are like eating steak for me. And the “ideation” piece explains where all the connections start happening. I get the feeling like I’m following threads that are all interconnected somehow.
And when a new discovery emerges in the midst of the connections there is a warmth of deep contentment that occurs. I want to quietly hold the new idea in. To savor the joy of the breakthrough. It feels like transcendence. Like I’m getting a glimpse behind the curtain. And when I do, I feel a sense of sacredness to it. Like God is there.
When Eric Liddell said that he feels God’s pleasure when he runs, I immediately relate it to my own feelings of thinking and questioning. I’m not saying I’m an Olympian when it comes to ideas. Hardly! But Eric’s sister is confused why he isn’t just going straight to China to become a missionary, where all good Christians go. Eric says he will eventually, but that God also made him fast. That these “nonspiritual” pursuits, such a running, also matter to God, maybe as much or more than the ones we consider “spiritual.”
As I’ve been teaching through the gospel of Luke on Sunday mornings, it has been so fun and affirming to watch Jesus constantly pushing against the constrained ideas and misdirected intentions of his followers. He constantly challenges their areas of control and exposes their vain attempts at earthly success and glory. He beckons them to look further ahead. To consider a longer view. To broaden their field of vision. He doesn’t rebuff their questions, but instead offers them better questions.
Richard Rohr says that every time Jesus teaches, it is always with the intention of transcendence and inclusion. This idea has stuck with me and has proved especially helpful when interpreting some of the odd parables Jesus taught. There have been plenty of times when I’ve sat down to look at the text for the coming Sunday and thought, where are you going with this, Jesus? How does this pertain to real life?
And then something emerges. Connections begin to reveal themselves. Jesus tells us that each of us have been given a coin, a Mina, that we’re accountable for and to invest it wisely. He exposes the corruption with the money changers in the temple. He gives permission to pay Caesar his tax but then asks them to give God what belongs to God. Which includes not only the temple, but also Caesar and gentiles and all of Rome. And then he points to the widow…exploited by all. Taken advantage of by the temple scribes. Oppressed by Rome. Discriminated by all of the patriarchal society. The one at the bottom rung. And she throws all she has, two measly coins, into the corrupt temple treasury, in defiance. That their authority is not only going to be eventually judged, but is, ultimately, not the final word. That her value is not measured by their limited, exploitive power, but rests in a realm beyond their control. In the realm of heaven, the eternal kingdom, her value and provision cannot be touched or corrupted or exploited. Her destiny is secure.
I sit back and marvel at the beautiful symmetry in the complexity of these stories as Luke has woven them together. At the intricate teaching emerging from the symbols as they unpack themselves. How incredibly lucky I am to be able to spend my time and energy peering and gazing and questioning all of this. Because there is always more. It just goes deeper and deeper.
I want to live like that widow, tossing what she’s been given into the hands of her God. Not to succumb to the praises and applause of others, but to do it entirely for the one who has invested these small gifts in me. I want to stop comparing my gifts with others and instead, with courage and vulnerability, go all in. As I do, I feel God smile. Easily pleased, but not easily satisfied. And I hear God say, “well done…but guess what…there’s more.”