Tag Archives: pastor

Ignorance is Bliss?

In a conversation I had with a woman in her late 50s who was describing the abusive childhood of a loved one, she repeated a commonly used excuse for the irresponsible behavior of the parents.  How often have we heard this phrase: “They did the best they could with the knowledge they had”?  That phrase is usually followed or preceded by a horror story of child abuse or some other atrocity.  I decided a long time ago that I despise that phrase, that excuse. 

I do realize that we often do things out of ignorance and on some level that will always happen and cannot be helped.  No one can know everything or understand any situation fully but God.  Perhaps that’s why God is infallible?  He knows everything and sees each situation from all sides.  But I don’t mean to get into a theological discussion of God’s perfection, so moving on…  As I was saying, I do understand that each person will make mistakes out of ignorance and this is to be expected.  The reason I so despise the phrase mentioned is because it’s often is used to excuse behavior that is reprehensible.  When a small child is beaten with a board full of nails for saying a curse word he’s heard his father use a million times before, then forced to “confess” by repeating that curse word and is so frightened he can’t remember it, is then forced to guess what curse word he said then beaten for each incorrect curse word he guessed until he’s nearly dead – that is inexcusable.  Don’t tell me the father didn’t know any better.  No one is that stupid.

I heard that phrase many times while I was growing up in the form of, “I’m sorry I hurt you.  I did the best I could with what I knew to do.”  And I decided I hated it.  I was not the one beaten with boards, thank God!  But in a pastor’s house, you hear horror stories every day.  People bring their problems to their pastor and I paid attention.  Ignorance was sometimes an excuse, but it struck me as totally unreasonable.

I made a decision somewhere around the age of fourteen that I would not let that be an excuse for bad behavior in my life.  If I didn’t know something, I would find out.  And I have built my life on that concept.  I’m a researcher.  It may appear that I make quick decisions and don’t take the time to think them through.  I am a decisive person.  But what many don’t realize is the number of hours I’ve spent searching for answers to questions I don’t have to answer yet, so that when the day comes that I do have to make a choice, I can choose wisely.  I rarely decide anything without much research and forethought.  When I do, I usually regret it. 

Ever since the day my brother was born when I was nearly eleven years old, I have known that I want to be a mother.  I began to research parenting and did all I could to apply the principles I learned to the children around me.  When I was in my early twenties, I finally put down the parenting books because I realized I was driving myself crazy with all this theory and no one to practice on.  I haven’t picked up another parenting book since then, but I’m a really good babysitter and aunt! 

The point is, I didn’t want to make parenting mistakes out of ignorance when the time came.  I haven’t picked up any more books since then, but I’ve been a diligent student of my friends with children.  I’ve watched how they do things, asked questions, and made mental notes for myself. 

In my mid-twenties, a friend challenged me with a unique understanding of Scripture as it relates to the end times and Christ’s return.  She walked me through the Scriptures to prove her point of view.  As she did this, I realized I disagreed strongly with her, but I couldn’t articulate why.  I KNEW she was wrong, but I couldn’t walk her through Scriptures myself to show her why.  I became furious and had to walk away from the conversation before I lost my temper.  I wasn’t angry with her, but with myself for not knowing more so I could discuss it with her.  I’d been a Christian all my life, was a pastor’s daughter, the product of several Christian schools, and had even spent a year in Christian college.  Yet I was mute before her argument.  That realization drove me nuts.

A few years later I enrolled in seminary.  The major paper I did for my last systematic theology class was on this very subject.  I was determined to understand it and refute it.  When I finished that paper, I felt such a sense of accomplishment!  I went back and talked to her about it and was finally able to explain why I disagreed with her.  I didn’t change her mind (darn it!), but I was no longer ignorant either.

Proverbs 13:15 says, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.”

What good would it have done for me to have yelled and shown my anger toward my friend that day when I didn’t know what to say to her, just knew I disagreed with her?  I kept my mouth shut until I had good understanding.  She had no idea I had been so worked up by what she said.  When I went back to her years later, we had an intelligent conversation about it and she was touched that I cared so much about her ideas that I went and studied the matter out to be able to answer her.  We are still great friends to this day and every once in a while have to acknowledge our different opinions on the end times.  This is done with no animosity, but respect.

Proverbs chapter four is full of admonitions to get wisdom and to make sure we understand things. 

Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
      Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
       6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
      Love her, and she will keep you.
       7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
      Therefore get wisdom.
      And in all your getting, get understanding.
       8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
      She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
       9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
      A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

We often do shameful things out of ignorance; things that embarrass us later.  We can’t explain why we did them except, “I didn’t know any better.”  But Proverbs urges us to seek wisdom and understanding.  Instead of shame, it promises that we’ll have an ornament of grace, a crown of glory on our heads. 

I try to live my life by the words of Proverbs 4:13, which states, “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” 

What would the world look like if we all sought after wisdom and understanding?  If we all tried to understand the best way to do something before we did it?  What would the church look like if just the Christians did that?

There’s no way I’ll ever know all the things I’m interested in, curious about, or need to know.  I wish I could, but when would I sleep?  I realize how little I know, which drives me to learn more and apply myself to getting instruction.  Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.

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Humor

When I was a kid, we used to sit down at the table and wait for Dad to pray for the food.  But semi-regularly, he wouldn’t pray.  He’d hold up his pointer finger and that was a sign to all of us to put our fingers up too.  The last one with their finger up had to pray.    

It always seemed like a kind of weird ritual to me, but I put my finger up with everyone else in the race to not be last.  But we were a Christian family, Dad was a pastor, and we were taught to pray without ceasing.  Why then did we race to see who “had” to pray?     

I don’t know that it was so much about who “had” to pray.  None of us really minded praying for dinner.  It was more about being silly and having a little fun.  We’re all pretty competitive in my family.  We all wanted to win, even if the prize was not having to pray for dinner that night.    

 

  

  

Family Ski Trip, 2004. Adam's face had met the snow.

 

 Sometimes I think as Christians that we get too serious about everything.  Yes, Christianity is serious business.  There’s nothing funny about Christ’s death and suffering.  God is a holy God and to be revered.  But does that mean that we can’t ever let loose and laugh?  I don’t think so.    

I think that God truly appreciates it when His people have a sense of humor and enjoy life.  I think He appreciates it when we throw our heads back and laugh loudly over something crazy or ridiculous.  Humor can be used in so many ways – to ease the tension between people, to break down barriers, to make another person laugh.  Making other people laugh is one of my favorite things to do.      

 

  

  

Just goofing around...

 

 A few days ago I was complaining to a friend of mine who just had two babies in two years about my ticking biological clock.  (Not that I’m out prowling for a baby daddy or anything like that…  I’d rather be childless and at peace than dealing with a chaotic home life.)  My friend’s idea of how to cheer me up included some very graphic descriptions about the toll babies take on a woman’s body.  I won’t regale you with those details here…  Trust me, you don’t want to know.  She had me doubled over with laughter, tears running down my face, and I believe I even snorted!  And after that information, I decided that I’m doing just fine the way I am.  Maybe I’ll even adopt!  Yikes!  That description should keep me content for a while with the status quo.

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Scoot over…

When I was a little girl, I wasn’t allowed to sleep in my parent’s bed.  That was Mom’s rule anyway.  I always found unique places to sleep – on the floor of my closet, on a step, under the piano…  But my favorite spot was curled up with Mom and Dad.  I would go into their room at night and approach Mom first.

“Hey, Mom, can I sleep with you?”
“No!  Go back to your own bed.”  (You’d think I’d learn and stop going to her first…)
Not easily deterred, I’d go over to Dad’s side of the bed and wake him up.
“Hey, Dad, scoot over!”
And Dad would scoot, much to Mom’s dismay and my delight. 

Mom’s rule was probably a very good one and I totally understand it, but Dad’s grace was much more comforting at the time. 

The thing is, Dad was always scooting over for someone.  Not literally, of course.  I don’t think anyone besides us kids crawled into bed with Mom and Dad, but people were always staying in our home.  Dad has the gift of compassion and Mom has the gift of hospitality, so probably at least 50% of my childhood was spent with people other than my immediate family staying in our house with us.

Special speakers from church, extended family, recovering alcoholics, troubled teenagers, missionaries, and out-of-town friends were in and out like a revolving door.  Since I had a double bed, the guests typically stayed in my room and I moved in with my sister.  Even though I was displaced, I loved the company!  I got to hear interesting stories from all over the world and all walks of life.  I have no memory of resenting the requirement to give up my bedroom.  I probably grumbled a bit here and there, but what stands out is the way that we were taught to welcome people and help them feel at home.

I got to see that alcoholics were hurting people who wanted love just like everyone else.  I saw a troubled teenage boy stop being cool for a awhile to play with a little girl.  I saw people who got up and preached at church walking around in their pajamas.  I learned that missionary kids aren’t that different from pastor’s kids.  I was extra-good friends with some of them…  And when our cousins showed up, we all piled on the floor in the basement in sleeping bags and stayed up talking all night!

Mainly, I learned that we are stewards of all God has given us.  Our house was not our own and we shared it as the need arose.  I’m sure my mother would tell of the pressure it put on our family to have other people around so often and of the extra housework she did to constantly get ready for guests and clean up after they were gone.  One year we had out-of-town guests every single month, sometimes twice a month.  We once had a man stay with us for at least a year.  Another man showed up on our doorstep unannounced and stayed for several months.  (He taught me to drive a stick shift.)  In spite of the challenges, it’s something I’ll never forget.

Whether we had overnight guests or not, we also had dinner parties, barbeques, and Bible studies.  Every Monday for years our kitchen was taken over by a men’s discipleship group.  There was no end to the dinner parties and events that my parents hosted.  My bathroom always had to be clean!  You never knew who’d be using it. 

The way I grew up, with people in and out of our house all the time (and us in and out of theirs), is not the way things seem to be now.  People are so isolated and private, so embarrassed if their house isn’t some kind of designer show place, or if there are dishes in the kitchen sink.  Who cares?  That’s the stuff of life.  We don’t always get to the dishes, we don’t always have money for the latest decor, and sometimes others might find out more than we bargained for about who we are at home.  But isn’t that how the body of Christ should be:  a family of believers who care deeply enough for each other that they don’t mind if the furniture is a little worn?

On a pastor’s salary, our house was always simple and clean.  We didn’t have anything expensive or showy, but we made sure we had space for guests and plenty of food in the cabinets.  That’s how I want my own home to be – a place where everyone feels welcome and the door is always open.  Stay over any time.  I don’t mind sleeping on the couch.  🙂

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