“Thus understanding and love, that is, the knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it embraces and comprehends with all the saints the length and breath, the height and depth, that is the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom of God.” -St. Bernard
I think I can read the Bible from now until I am 100 and still find new truths to understand.
My understanding of human motivation will take as long or longer. People often baffle me. But I am sure it is a situation of vice versa – I am sure I am not always easily understood by others.
I just wish when they don’t “get me,” people would ask me directly about my motivations. I am always happy to answer. There is no hidden agenda, and I usually have a reason for choosing to do what I do, though reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of my choices.
I am not above questioning them frequently myself.
Proverbs is full of advice about “understanding.”
”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
”Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Proverbs 3:7)
”How joyful is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding, because her profit is better than the profit of silver, and her yield than fine gold.” (Proverbs 3:13-14)
Ah. I am still waiting for all that greater profit to flow my way. I would take some of the silver and gold too.
In reading the Ron Chernow biography on “Grant,” I am finding a kindred spirit who was often baffled about why people ascribed motivations and actions to him that were not in alignment with his own view of his character.
It hurt him, though he wouldn’t say it. But like me, he privately brooded on it. He felt misunderstood and maligned.
I think we can all relate to that, especially when it seems to be coming from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is a vast difference between criticism and counsel.
One of the things that really shaped me as a child was an accusation I had tried to steal a netted hair bonnet from the local drugstore.
Now mind you, ours was a very small town in the northeastern pocket of Indiana where everyone knew each other and everyone’s personal business.
There wasn’t a day during summer that I probably didn’t frequent Smittie’s drug store for an order of fries and a Cherry Coke from the soda fountain.
Now on this particular day, I had stopped by the General Store first and bought my bonnet from Campie, the hair-bunned store clerk who knew me equally well. I paid for my purchase but took it in its original package because I planned to open it and wear it on my one mile walk home along the lake shore.
But first I stopped to get my usual treat. When I went to pay for my snack, Mrs. Smith tried to charge me for the bonnet too. I explained I had bought it at the other store.
She still accused me of theft and dragged me across the street to the bar where my Dad was working. I explained where I bought it and Campie verified the purchase.
Rather than apologize for falsely accusing me, Mrs. Smith coldly chastised me for not putting my purchase in a bag, admonished me to do so in future and walked off.
In her haughty pride, in her need to be “right,” she could not understand the shame and sense of helplessness I felt at still somehow being “indicted” and “found guilty” even though I had done nothing wrong.
Maybe that explains why I horde my shopping bags and purchase receipts long after needed. Who knows?
I do believe that one of the things I need to better comprehend is that as a daughter of God, he will not leave me in a situation that will harm me. My devotional reading today, by Sarah Young, is a reminder from God that I am to remember “who you are and whose you are.”
”Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
So even when I don’t understand “them,” or am confounded by “their” seemingly mean-spirited critique of me, I must remember to diligently pursue love and understanding of those who would accuse me in what I perceive as a wrong manner.
For through love and understanding, wisdom will flow.