I May Not Be A Smart Man, But...
There are a few movies that I will always watch when they're aired on a television here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. In fact, I'll watch them until the credits roll because, let's face it, what else do I have to do? Oddly, Tom Hanks is in 3 of them, but clearly my favorite of his is Forrest Gump. There are some memorable lines from that movie. I laugh out loud when merely thinking about shrimp, million dollar wounds, and apologizing for messing up someone's black panther party. But the line that always gets me is when he tells his beloved Jenny, "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is." The inherent self-awareness of that statement confirms that Forrest was pretty smart, because he truly did know what love is. The kind of love that never gives up.
The older I get, the less I know. I sadly can't read this blog, as we lack internet access. My posts, once sent to my self-proclaimed "Editor At Large", disappear from my memory, and I can't refer back to them. I shudder to think about thoughts I've expressed here months and years ago and wonder if I would disagree with myself now. The truth is that I'm not always sure what I know, much less what I believe other than the knowledge that God is truly love. In that sense, I guess I'm like Forrest Gump.
I was reminded about that recently when trying to pen a reply to a letter from a dear friend about the mess going on in the United Methodist Church as they struggle with how to deal with gay and lesbian membership and ordination. A few days later I was brought back to that letter when reading Andy Stanley's book Irresistible. Near the end of the book is a chapter he entitles "What Love Requires of Me." Andy is a pastor at North Point Church near Atlanta and writes, "Every preacher I know wishes they could go back and re-preach, un-preach, or delete some old messages. We meant well. But then life happened. Kids happened. Tragedy struck. We grew. We matured. We saw the world differently. God didn't change. The world didn't necessarily change. We changed. But those old sermons live on forever somewhere."
I certainly hope that what I know and believe continues to evolve. The apostle Paul understood this well when he wrote a letter to the 1st century church in Corinth, Greece. In 1 Corinthians 13:9 he writes "For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears." He goes on in verse 12, where we read, "For now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
It's not a coincidence these words about what we don't know fall right in the middle of Paul's famous passage on love. They're sandwiched between "love never fails" and "now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." You can read it all here, as Paul knew exactly what Forrest Gump later discovered.
Stanley goes on to explain this so much better than I ever could:
We know what we know, but we don't know everything. We see what we see, but we don't see everything. Once we've learned all we can learn, there will still be more to learn. We believe what we believe, but our beliefs are limited by what we know, see and experience. Yet while our knowledge and beliefs are in flux, one thing is not. There is one thing that transcends our limited knowledge, insight, and experience. Love. Love fills the gaps. Love reduces the friction created by our limited insight, knowledge and judgment-inhibiting experiences. Love works in spite of the limitations imposed by the era in which we live. There is much I don't know. There are things I'll never understand. My ignorance limits my abilities and reduces my opportunities. But ignorance does not impede my capacity to put others first. So while I'm not always sure what to believe, and while my views on a variety of things continue to mature and change, I almost always know what love requires of me. So do you.