On my kitchen table is a white ceramic sugar bowl. One day, I noticed my five-year-old granddaughter helping herself to frequent, sticky pinches. “Bailey, honey,” I said, “eating sugar like that is not a good habit.” She listened. A short time later, I walked into the kitchen and found her sucking sugar out of the bowl through a bright pink straw. In other news, a patron of a local fast food eating establishment was enjoying a peaceful lunch when she was suddenly smacked on the back of her neck by a big blob of ketchup. The perpetrator, an eight year old boy (who happens to be my grandson) explained, “I thought the ketchup pack said ‘tear or squeeze,’ and I picked ‘squeeze.’”
These stories, and others like them, confirm that those two kiddos are, indeed, my flesh and blood. Like them, I am sometimes erroneously sure of my understanding. One morning, not so long ago, I was on my way to meet my son for breakfast in Atlanta. I had spent the night with my sister, who lives north of Atlanta. Let me just say that it is a well-known fact in my family that I have no sense of direction. However, I had successfully driven the same route several weeks before, so I was feeling confident in my ability to drive straight there. In fact, I was feeling downright proud of myself as I sailed along. I was singing and praising God for the beautiful mountains in the distance when it suddenly occurred to me that I should probably not be heading toward mountains. I’m okay with passing my wackiness on to my grandkids because misunderstandings can make life fun. I just hope I manage to get one thing right. I want them to know God’s Word. Somehow, even in this there is a touch of wackiness, because understanding the Bible begins with that knowing we can’t. Not completely, anyway. Romans 1:34 says that no one can fully understand God’s ways. And that’s a good thing. After all, if God were small enough to be understood by me, we’d be in big trouble considering I don’t even know north from south. And yet, He does reveal Himself to us. It’s easy to misunderstand and think the Bible is all about telling us what to do, but it was actually written to tell us who to love. And, while He doesn’t promise we’ll understand Him. He does promise we can know Him in an intimate way. The catch is, it means surrendering everything to Him. It involves inviting Him into every hidden part of our hearts. And that can be uncomfortable. Or extremely painful. And it takes a lifetime. Most of the time, I would much rather look at what I think He needs to change in my neighbor’s heart. Or eat chocolate. Or watch TV. But submitting to God is worth it because His goal is for us to “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19) The word “know” in this verse goes beyond mere head knowledge and indicates a practical experience. So, although we’ll never be able to figure God out, we can personally experience His love- a love that sent His Son to die in our place. And that changes the way we understand everything.