This is a repost from my previous blog, originally written on May 21, 2013. In this blog, I address the nature of true understanding. Today, there’s so much stuff happening all the time that our thoughts have gotten used to just skimming information. It’s hard to find time to really see something, to understand a topic, issue, or person deeply. We need to be careful, because sometimes, a superficial “knowing” can fool you into thinking you at least know partially, when really you don’t get it at all—you’re completely wrong, and don’t even know it. Sometimes, shallow understanding is actually tragic misunderstanding.
There’s a certain power you feel in having a thing “figured out”.
A long time ago, noble men sailed to a far-off, undiscovered land and found a tribal people who danced around a fire wearing masks and chanting. These noble men came to learn that these tribesmen believed they could invoke the sky gods through rituals to bring the rain down from the clouds. The noble men now knew why the tribesmen danced around the fire; they had these people figured out. Then, they decimated their society and enslaved them, judging them to be an inferior species.
We all have an innate longing to be understood. But just figuring something out does not mean you understand it. True understanding ends in appreciation, admiration, adoration, and awe. To be “figured out” is to be conquered, to be controlled, like the way you solve a math problem or a puzzle. To know a thing rightly is to love and to liberate, to embrace its greatness and breathe life unto its potential. To think you’ve figured a person out may feed your instinctual need for control and power, but you’ll never really understand them, never truly know them.. not as you ought to.
“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
-Paul the Apostle
I don’t care if you have a PhD in Literature; you haven’t read a book until you’ve been caught up in its story, fallen in love with its heroes, hated its villains, and been so enchanted by its world that even though it’s fiction, it’s still true to you. I don’t care if you’re the next Mozart, you haven’t listened to a song until you’ve been melted by it, hypnotized, drawn into its dream.
For the same reasons, even brilliant scholars will never understand the Bible unless they come as a child. To a scholar, Jesus is a first-century Jewish teacher, a worker of miracles, a healer, a prophet, a priest, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Servant of Isaiah, the heir of David, the risen King, the true Israel, Abraham’s promise, the new Adam, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Yes, yes, and amen. But, to a child, He’s amazing. That’s what takes knowledge and kindles it to intimacy. God is known most rightly not in precise theology or calculated scrutiny, but in mind-blown soul-shook wonder, when you’re on your knees, enraptured by the mystery of His holiness and beauty. You can spend eternity figuring God out, but you’ll never know Him without love.
You might know a lot about me—my habits, my hobbies, my personality type, my history, my scars, my fears, my dreams, my favorite food, and favorite color—and actually, you’ll know me pretty well hahaha. But not really, not rightly… Not quite as you ought to. Not until you’ve been angry at me, frustrated with my flaws, confused by actions, inspired by my thoughts, moved by my heart, surprised by my strength, and awed by my greatness. I want to be understood, not dissected. I don’t want to be figured out, I want to be loved.
A magician on his deathbed confessed that the kids will always know his magic tricks better than he ever did. Because while he was the one who performed the tricks and knew all their intricate mechanics, only children could still marvel at them. Magic is best understood not in mastery, but in awe. Human beings are much the same.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”