I recently had a great day in my grocery shopping therapy progress (reference earlier post about grocery stranger danger). At 9:00 am my clean, happy boy and I wheeled through the fruit and veggies, discussing colors and shapes. Okay, I mostly talked to myself about the colors of the apples, but I’m using my teachable moments. Thus, my child will be the 4 year old in Sunday School who sees a picture of Eve looking longingly at some unknown fruit in a snake-wrapped tree and exclaim, “NO Eve! I know it looks ripe and is probably rich in vitamin C, but don’t eat it!” My apologies, future teachers.
With a few healthy items in the cart, I wheeled around to the ears of corn, which were being blocked by an inattentive older gentleman and his cart. I wheeled around and sidled up to bin when he blurted, “Sorry. I’m just waiting here for my wife!” Oh dear, he thought my comment about pulling back the husks to check the corn was to him, not my son. “She takes forever in the supermarket!” He was obviously a frustrated husband who had endured years of this. I smiled. “We women can really take our time. You’re obviously a patient man, and God love ya for it.” This man needed a hug but I was not volunteering. “No, she goes up and down each aisle, will have an item in her hand and then put it back for the one next to it. She takes an impossibly long time.” This poor soul was fired up now. He continued, “Oh, it takes me maybe 30 minutes to go down each aisle. She can take 2 to 3 hours each trip! I understand you trying to hurry with a little one. I have 3 and now 7 grandkids!” Oh my. Three hours? No wonder he was camped out waiting next to the corn; he really needed an ear. (Groan. I taught high school! Puns are inevitable.) He ended on the comment that immediately triggers my annoyance: “One day you’ll understand.” I smiled and replied, “Well, when I am a grandmother I am sure I will look back on the conversation I had next to the corn. Have a good day, Sir.” Whew.
I find it so frustrating to hear, “You will understand later”, “Just wait” and “You’ll learn”. Apparently I run into only strangers who were born perfect and learned everything with ease. Perhaps having clean hair and a cute outfit with a toddler in tow screams, “Tear this woman down! She thinks she has it all together! Clearly she must be set straight!” Whatever runs through the heads of the commentators, I am sure I wouldn’t understand. No, I don’t know what it’s like to have a teenager or a child go off to college—he’s 1. I don’t understand what it’s like to have 20 years of Army experience—we’re on year 5. No, I haven’t experienced the joys of menopause—but with this pregnancy and your detailed descriptions, I just can’t wait. Pass the hand-held fan and hormone pills! If I am in a rush to gain experience and arrive at understanding, I’ll miss the wisdom I could glean from the here and now. If I’m too busy listening to the all-knowing supermarket voices, I’ll miss the wisdom that will come out of the mouths of babes.
In 8th grade we had a teacher intern for a Social Studies semester. On one particular week we had a quiz related to geography and political changes in the early 1900s. The quiz questions were unclear and the map was indistinguishable; we all crashed and burned. The next day the teacher came rip-roaring in, smoke blowing out of her nose. She screamed about us pampered kids being uneducated and having no understanding of the world in which we live. I mean, we couldn’t identify the third richest man in the world by picture—clearly we are idiots without hope.
She instructed us: “Take your hands, make a C like you’re holding a can, and move them left to right. Now make a ‘beep’ sound.” We obeyed. “Get used to this. If you can’t figure out a quiz this simple then you’ll be working at HEB for the rest of your life.“ I’ve often kept this in mind as I’ve written test questions.
We all know “experts” who have studied for years and seem to have total understanding on a subject, but they lack the experience to go with it. This may be that they are just young or new to a field. It may be that they aren’t able experience something personally. At my last visit with an outstanding OB, he looked at me and said, “I’ve had four kids, so I understand the stress of juggling more than one.” Aw, you sweet man. It was your wife, Sir, who had the four kids. This is much like a friend of mine who once said, “You know what it’s like to be hungry and even to miss a meal but you’ve never had the fear that comes with not knowing when you will eat again.” She was right; sympathy and empathy do not equal full understanding. It can be very frustrating trying to explain something to someone who just doesn’t have the experience to understand.
The Bible mentions a few times when God got a little frustrated with those of us lacking understanding, especially when we question Him. Job got a few chapters full when he said, “I just don’t understand! Why me?” I don’t see God’s response as snippy so much as a clear, “I have this under control. My powers are so beyond your comprehension that you can’t understand, but I will demonstrate it in ways that you can comprehend.”
Even Jesus had similar moments with his disciples and those who questioned Him. Can you blame Jesus? The Son of God who was present and active in Creation is dealing with the finite minds of mere men. When Nicodemus questioned the Messiah, Jesus evaluated him with, “You are a great teacher in Israel and yet you do not know this.” Ouch. Then again, I am so thankful to have a God I can’t fully understand. If I could understand every minute detail, I could take control. Worshiping a God I could fully control would lose its luster in about a minute.
I often remind myself that the “experts”, while full of knowledge and worthy of respect, are also human. Not all teaching is correct and accurate; apparently Pluto isn’t even a planet anymore, and mixing Coke and Pop-rocks did NOT make Mikey’s head explode. As a teenager it seems people who “know better” and can’t wait for you to grow up and gain some wisdom ooze with contradicting advice. Add a few hormones and the result is a muddled mess. One of these teenage days I was reading through the Psalms in search of clarity and found one of my favorite verses for the duration of my time in academia.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. Psalm 119:97-99
I am becoming more steadfast in my belief that true wisdom and unchanging truth can only be found in the Word of God. He who designed and made it all wrote the book. I still have a lot to learn and many years before I will truly understand a lot of things. Some things will always be an enigma. (Why do babies immediately poop in clean diapers? Why do people think a turn signal is an invitation to speed up and cut me off before I can change lanes?) I don’t have to know everything; just where to find the answers. That is something I do understand.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” Proverbs 2:1-8