Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Here’s to Wisdom and Innocence




Jesus said some pretty crazy things as recorded in the gospels, but one line in particular has got me thinking a lot lately. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” These words of Jesus are not the typical stuff of daily devotionals or inspirational calendars but really tell us a lot about the battle that we are in.

I find that the older I get, the easier it is to become cynical whether about politics, church, or just dealing with people in general. Why is this? Because living is hard! As one song put it “Living will be the death of me!” None of us make it through life without disappointments, failures, relationship break-ups and break-downs, and pain of all varieties. These disappointments and trials have a way of wounding us and as a result poisoning our perception of life or at least lingering as dull pain inside. However, those who are Christ-followers, those who take the words of Jesus seriously, should not be surprised that life is hard, that people fail us and disappoint us, that bad things happen to good people, after all Jesus said as much in this verse.

Jesus makes it clear in these words that we should expect hardship, that we should expect evil. How does he make drive this point home? By using a picture of sheep being sent out among wolves. Of all of the comforting things Jesus said this was not one of them. It’s like saying “I’m sending you like steak into the lion cage.” A sheep is no match for a wolf. There is just no way of making that fight work out to the sheep’s advantage… that is unless there is a shepherd. Fortunately for us Jesus makes it clear elsewhere that he is that shepherd.

However, it is the final words of this verse that have really been speaking to me lately, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” While our tendency in the trials of life is to get cynical and bitter and to close our hearts off for fear of being hurt again, Jesus calls us to walk in such a way that expects trials and hard times, that learns from trials and hard times, and yet still maintains innocence and a child-like faith and wonder.

I could certainly use more child-like faith and wonder in my life these days. To be honest, sometimes I annoy myself with all my cynical thoughts and statements. I hate that when I encounter certain people or situations that I am so quick to make snap judgments or to filter things through my own bad experiences. I don’t want to be a grumpy old man or a grumpy young man, for that matter. I am asking God to help me to keep an innocent heart no matter what kinds of things I’ve been through or what kinds of trials I will go through. If we take Jesus at his words this seems like very real possibility.

So here’s to wisdom, the kind of wisdom that only comes through hard times and trials and testing. But here’s also to innocence, wide-eyed, open-hearted innocence that is looking expectantly for God even where one would least expect to find him.

5 comments:

Pi Man said...

Awesome, Bro. Especially the last two paragraphs. The next to the last one could be a quote from me. Thanks for the hope and as always, being vulnerable and authentic in your words. TA

steven hamilton said...

thanks for putting those together crispin; there is an interplay there that i really like...one of my favorite authors, abraham joshua heschel, once opined that awe and wonder lead to wisdom...and i think it's important to never let go of that awe and child-like wonder and faith...

peace

Crispin Schroeder said...

Steve, I really like that idea you mentioned by Herschel. Very true. There is a tendency in business and art and life in general to have amazing breakthroughs when people find themselves in a place of awe and wonder. Unfortunately, too often we build resulting structures that make no room for wonder and awe in the creative process. I'll have to check Herschel out. Any book you would suggest as a good place to start?

steven hamilton said...

his magus opus is "God in Serach of Man", possibly the best title of any book in the hostory of the world. in it, he has specific chapters on awe and the sublime and encountering God in this way.

as a Vineyard-guy, i like how the "power encounter" of God in the whirlwind is a wisdom-moment for Job...Job being one of go-to books to read some scripture...and brings together two pieces of my own story "power encounter" with the presence of God (o-so Vineyard) and the wisdom tradition and paradigm in scripture...

the ther book of Heschel's that tackles this, but it is more interwoven in the text, is his two-books on the Prophets, although nowadays they usually come combined as one book, "The Prophets"...

peace

Crispin Schroeder said...

Thanks Steven. I'm about to order some new books. I think I'll put that one on the list. And that is about the coolest title ever for a book!