The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” ~ Psalm 14:2
My two middle kids have finished The Iliad and are moving on to The Odyssey.
This is not leisure reading for them, not something they choose to do with their extra hours. It’s assigned, reminded, enforced, and they groan not-a-little.
I give all those disclaimers because sometimes my friends have this picture of me and my kids, snuggled around the fireplace, reading the classics and discussing deep theology all day long.
It doesn’t happen, folks.
Truth is, I had intended to read the books along with them and I did read the first book of The Iliad aloud. A few years ago my eldest daughter read these classics and it was a marker for me – my kids are now learning things and reading things that I have no idea about. It irritates me that there are so many things I haven’t learned and books I haven’t read, so I try to keep up.
I read the first book of The Iliad aloud and that was it.
We’re using a lecture series from Roman Roads Media and any time I get a chance to flip open The Iliad I am comforted by the lecturer’s words – you don’t have to get it all.
I certainly don’t get it all. Along with not being able to keep up, I find my brain requiring such delicate attention (quiet) and so much focus (coffee). It all has to line up for me these days and when I still don’t get it all, it can be discouraging.
My kids have been frustrated with not getting it all very often. Somehow we’ve set this standard that if you are going to read something, you must get it all and anything less than full comprehension is a waste. Maybe it comes from math? We don’t move on to a new concept until the old ones have been mastered – shouldn’t literature work the same? And physics? And Logic?
There’s something to be said for reading a good or difficult book several times over, layer upon layer. A haughty insistence on getting it all in one reading keeps us from understanding, in the same way a bad first impression of someone, though it be our own prejudice or judgement that caused it, can prevent a relationship.
I was reading in Ezekiel 9 the other day about the angel with the ink horn, marking the foreheads of the men who “sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done” within the city of Jerusalem. Someone had mentioned these verses at a prayer meeting, to comfort us that God does hear our prayers and makes note of those who are broken over sin.
The thing that bothered me in these verses was the way only the foreheads of the men were mentioned, not the women. However, when it was time for judgement, women were specifically mentioned.
Were there no faithful women in the city at that time?
I’m not normally a what about the women woman – I generally believe that men often refers to mankind and I feel like I have a good grip on God’s love for all of us, even if I feel left out of some verses.
The Bible is not about me, after all. Or is it?
I just want to understand it all and have an answer to the doubts and doubters, seekers and naysayers alike.
I’m learning to expect questions I cannot answer – that’s easy; I just say that I can’t answer them. What is far more difficult is questions I would rather not answer.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
So I am forever a novice and I can’t afford to be an expert in everything; but I also can’t afford to not be curious and sometimes, curious leads me down a path that just simply dead-ends.
I have to be alright with some mystery – that’s what makes God, God, and me, not God. What if we really could understand and explain and discern every curiosity, every difficult thing? With nothing left to learn, how would we spend this life?
Or, maybe this would be worse: what if we stopped seeing mystery at all?
Someday we’ll know as we are known – fully, with all the understanding we need, all the blanks and gaps and figures of speech filled in properly. Until then let’s hold out for mystery. Rather than teasing out every possible interpretation and resting on our assumptions, let’s expect to find the world still shrouded in mystery and clothed with thoughts that are higher, deeper, wider, more colorful than what our feeble brains can imagine, whether those mysteries come from ancient writers or The Ancient of Days.