Let’s start with fact that ignorance is unavoidable. Like sin, we can never escape the reality of our finitude. There will always be gaps in our knowledge, lacunas in our experiences, blinders to the reality of others. The longer I spend in the role of Outlook editor, the more glaring my limitations become. As I encounter people of faith from different backgrounds, locales and theological perspectives again and again, I bump up to the boundaries of what I know – or thought I knew.
I confess I am not fond of feeling, well… hmm… what’s the word? Not stupid exactly, but certainly less than smart. Hence, venturing into territory that is unfamiliar makes me feel vulnerable. I know I risk exposing my ignorance. I know I can count on savvy readers letting me know where I have made a misstep or just been flat out wrong. (And also offering their prayers, of course.)
Initially, I admit, those corrections stung. I am chief among sinners when it comes to the sin of pride (and other varieties of sin, too). But now, strangely, I have come to welcome them (mostly). While I don’t delight in my ignorance, I have started to embrace it because I have come to recognize two things. First, my undeniable lack of knowledge and obvious limited experience allows me the opportunity to learn. When someone says, “You got that wrong…” or, “Did you ever consider looking at it this way?” or, “Why didn’t you talk to this person or group of people?” – I have started to pause, take a breath and sincerely say, “Thank you. You have broadened my thinking or my circle or my perspective.”
When I am willing to set aside my ego just a little and welcome the input of others, I see the exposure of my ignorance as a means to grow and even mature in Christ. I have started to ask questions. I try to become childlike, asking out of curiosity and an honest desire to know. I’ve started to preface questions with, “I am sorry if this is a dumb question, but… ” I have started to say unashamedly, “Will you help me understand?” I have found that grace abounds, forgiveness is granted freely and those whom I ask for help grant it readily.
I have also realized that as I slam into the boundaries of what I know, I am confronted by not just how small and limited I am, but by how big and beautiful and vast God and God’s creation and God’s people truly are. What a cause for celebration!
Truly, the slice of the world and the Presbyterian Church that I occupy is miniscule. And even that miniscule part is richer and more varied than I imagined – not to mention it is also ever changing. God really is always doing a new thing. Sometimes I even perceive it. More often my brothers and sisters must point it out to me.
Ignorance is inevitable. We are limited. Sinful. Creatures. However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God and the gift of Jesus in the midst of us, ignorance is not intractable, nor insurmountable. We are, after all, the God-taught ones, the ones through whom God condescends to work, the new creations in Christ Jesus our Lord. Transformation is inevitable, too.
Trusting, in the words of Thomas Merton, that trying to please God, even when we get it wrong, does in fact please God, frees us to take risks, be vulnerable and look – if not stupid – at least less than smart and still be beloved.
Hence, I am going to admit my ignorance and risk taking on topics that I know will expose my limits, trusting that we can learn together (with your prayers, please). We are, after all, the Body of Christ. We need each other. We can’t live without each other. All the parts are of vital importance to the health and functioning of the whole. So, please, forgive the ignorance of this part of the body and know that I welcome your correction, will work hard to be teachable and rejoice in the depth, breadth, diversity, variety and every changing newness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Body of Christ, God’s people and, indeed, all of creation.
Grace and Peace,