Twenty some odd years ago the great philosopher Don Henley crooned, “The more I know, the less I understand. All the things I thought I knew before, I’m learning again.” In my youth I liked the song but couldn't relate since I understood everything there was to know about everything. Now the lyrics resonate.
I’m a person of strong and (I like to think) well-founded opinions. I know that I know that I know. You know? Yet my iron insights have often been……what’s the word? Wrong. Dead wrong. In the natural I know how my life should go, how my children should turn out, how God should act in most situations. Believe me when I tell you that I know who should be elected president next week. Or do I? There’s a quiet voice, down deeper, that whispers, “You don’t know. Not fully. ” Of course I don’t. Though I’m careful to base my opinions on my understanding of God’s word, I don’t know his plans. I don’t know politicians’ hearts. I don’t even know my own heart. I don’t know how God is planning to accomplish his purposes – perhaps through the suffering and failure I’m praying against?
My perspective is badly limited. I think of Job, whom God challenged: “Were you there when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38: 4). Yes, he’s going to get all technical on us. We’ve missed a lot and it greatly hinders our ability to comprehend. God wants to hear from us, but our ideas are not as helpful as we may think.
Psalm 131 helps settle my heart in the right place:
"O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever."
King David, no schmuck, wrote that psalm. He knew the limits of his understanding and inspires me to know mine. Notice the result of coming to the end of one’s abilities – trust and rest in the Lord who knows all. We are not called to deny our hunger like Buddhists, but to wait contentedly because we trust we’ll be fed in due time. As weaned children we rest against the Source of life, submitting our wills to Goodness itself instead of reaching for the nourishment ourselves.
I have learned that I don’t know. I understand less now than I did a decade ago. My list of suggestions for God has grown shorter and I can now pray “Lord, do what’s best” and mean it. I believe the most powerful prayer in our arsenal is “May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We don’t have to know his particular will to pray that prayer. In fact, faith may pack more punch when our ideas are out of the way.
What do you “just know” that needs to go? Can you relate to understanding less than you used to? If so, I think that means you’re maturing in Christ. As we try to get down to the heart of the matter, O church, let’s surrender our vast knowledge and hope in God, from this time forth and forever.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-7).