True Wisdom

I watched a really good movie one time.  Okay, I've seen it more like a dozen or two times.  And the description "really good" is probably generous from the perspective of a movie critic.  I've never agreed with them, though, so my assessment holds true.  For me.  I'll fess up now.  It's Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.  The one liners in the movie are relentless - one right after another. 

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

So what you're telling me, essentially, is that Napoleon was a short, dead dude?

Teacher: Now, who was Joan of Arc?
Bill: Noah's wife?

Most of them are ridiculous, but there's one.  One that resonates in more than the typical stupid comedy way. 
The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.
They attribute that quote to Socrates in the movie.  A slight bit of internet investigation suggests that Socrates never actually said this, and it's most likely attributable to Plato's summaries of Socrates' teachings.  The important thing is that when I first heard this quote, I was a very young girl, maybe 6 or 7.  It meant nothing to me. 

For my tenure in middle school and high school, I knew I knew more than everyone else around me.  It's a pompous thing to say, yes.  I didn't actually know more, but I definitely felt that way.

When I got to college, I started realizing just how "smart" I was not, when I was surrounded by some brilliant people.  The majority of the people there were smarter than I could ever dream to be. 

I got married at 19, had a child at 20, and quickly learned that I knew absolutely nothing about being a wife or a mother. 

Fast forward to now.  I'm not exactly a seasoned old woman.  I'm 31 years old.  But, I can tell you, I whole-heartedly know that I don't know much of anything.  I'm not dumb.  But I am aware that life is about much more than book smarts, or beefed-up resumes, or accomplishments.  Every single human on this planet has a complicated story full of successes and failures, relationships, struggles and triumphs that weave together to create a uniquely individual personality and outlook on life.

I do believe in absolutes.  I believe there is a right and wrong.  But I also believe that for when the right and wrong isn't clear...there is grace.  I know that I have made mistakes.  I know that my words have hurt others.  I know that I don't always know the right thing to do, even when I believe there surely is a right thing to do.

So, this post.  It's about this:

I sincerely apologize, from the bottom of my heart, to those whom I have hurt with my words, whether recently or in the past.  What the world needs is not more opinions from a faceless blogger.  What the world needs is a face to meet another person in their mess and give them grace. 

I had the blessing/luxury/handicap of growing up in a Christian home.  My world was safe and comfortable.  Everyone should experience safety and comfort in their lifetime.  But I say this was a handicap because it clouded my perspective as one of privilege.  I'm learning that there's a world of hurt on the other side of safety and comfort that I know nothing about.  And this world is the one that needs to see love and grace from the likes of me.

I spent my day today reading the beautiful, heart-wrenching memoir of one Kara Tippetts, a mother of four, dying of terminal cancer.  Describing how she came to grow in the faith, I was inspired -
I appreciate the women who had grown up in faith and didn't face the struggles I had endured.  Coming back I realized I had something to share with them  I could share the heart of the brokenhearted and challenge those women to return to their campuses and share the love they knew with someone who looked like me.  I was no longer intimidated by the differences because I knew I was uniquely made.  My story mattered.  I had grown in freedom and grace, and I returned not embarrassed that I wasn't a spiritual giant.  I simply had more growing to do.
I want to remember that each person carries their own baggage.  And some of it so very heavy.  Some of it is so fragile.  We need to handle our human interactions with care.  With tact.  With grace. 

I keep coming back to that word.  It was my defacto theme for 2014, and I'm keeping it for 2015 even if that breaks rules.  Shoot, I'll keep it for life, until the day I die.

You see, Grace said, "You are worth it."  You.  When Jesus died in my place, in your place, he did it because he deemed us worth it.  Every single last one of us.  Even if we were the only one to do it for.  That means more than words can ever say.  If by showing someone else grace, they catch even a glimpse of what Jesus did for you and for me, my time here will have been worth it. 

But mostly, I'm sorry.  For the chances I missed because I thought I knew a lot more than I actually did.  For the words I spoke when I shouldn't have because my brain didn't listen to my heart.  For the times I said things that hurt.   For the relationships I squandered or severed because I was self-righteous.  For the judgments I cast on people who have a very different moral compass than me.  For all of the splinters I have pointed out in spite of the plank in my own eye.  For all of that. 

I know now, I know very little. 

But thank you, God, for grace.


I grew up in the Baltimore metro area.  Despite the fact that I was a 20 minute drive from the inner city, I classified myself as a small-town girl, most unquestionably a suburbanite.  Growing up in a small town has its charms.  You would usually see someone you knew every time you stepped foot inside the gas station, snowball stand, sporting event, or Kmart (hey, we weren't fancy in Joppatowne).  The community rallied together in good times and in bad, whether unprecedented athletic victory or tragic death.  The schools were good because the parents were involved.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And yet...I always found myself wanting a little bit of anonymity.  I didn't necessarily want to see someone I knew every time I went to Kmart for shampoo or a Coca-Cola.  It came time to apply to colleges.  Despite the fact that I desired anonymity, I did not want to go to a giant campus like University of Maryland, College Park.  I convinced myself I could be anonymous by doing something totally out of character for me - moving to a different state to a school where I would know not one single soul.  Yes.  That was my solution.

Mercer was a small school, so no one stayed anonymous for long.  Even people who don't know another soul.  It was just another small town. 

Over the past 31 years, it seems I have perpetuated the same cycle of wanting to be anonymous, finding a small, comfortable niche, rendering myself no longer anonymous.  What happens next is not always the same.

We've lived in our current home for nearly nine years.  Sam and I stayed pretty anonymous for the first few years.  Then, we plugged in.  We put down roots.  We made friends.  We joined a church family.  I regularly see people that I know in Target or the grocery store or Dollar Tree or the handful of other places I actually go anymore.  The difference between my 18 year old self and my 31 year old self is that I don't hide anymore.  I say "Hey!"  I engage.  I notice.  (Okay, not always.  Old habits die hard.  But I have shown marked improvement.)  Maybe the real difference is that I'm okay not blending in anymore. 

The fact of the matter is, with five kids, you can't.  No matter where you go, people notice. 

I dropped Ben off this morning for his hour and a half long Bible Quizzing practice and the four younger kids and I set off to take care of some business.  We landed at Big Lots, and despite the fact that we got the closest spot to the door, it was not easy getting everyone safely across the street and into the store.  It was a slow morning, so the employees had nothing else to do but watch us coming.  One woman met me at the door with a cart and said, "We were watching you.  We thought you might need some assistance."  Bless her. 

When I stopped at the tire place to get our wheels balanced, the employee met me in the parking lot so that I didn't have to unload everyone.  Bless him.  When I told him I'd be back at 11:30 after I picked up my oldest, he replied, "Oh?  You have another one?"  Indeed.  "You've got your hands full."  Yup.  Full of good stuff.

And since the tire balance took longer than anticipated, we found ourselves next door at Hardees for lunch.  We made ourselves at home and the sweet employees catered to our every whim, bringing extra ranch sauce to the table for my saucy kids and doing it with a smile. 

I can't exactly slink in and out of...anywhere...anymore, but I think this is another one of God's mysterious workings - how he always knows better than me.  All of my life I've wanted to remain anonymous.  With five constant tagalongs, that simply impossible.  And it turns out, connecting with people who notice you, is almost always a blessing.  I hope that whether because of Noah's big blue eyes and goofy teeth, Leah's two-ness, Sarah's gregariousness, Abby's shy smile, or Ben's professorial presence people who take notice of us are blessed in return.

We weren't meant to blend in.  We are meant to connect. 

(Just maybe not all the time.  I am still an introvert after all.)

What's your style?  Do you prefer anonymity or community? 

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