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The Rev. Dr. Tripp Martin is the pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Alabama. Previously, he has served as pastor of Vineville Baptist Church in Macon, GA and as an associate pastor at Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, MS.

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Without Knowing

November 01, 2012

At times, we learn through learning what we do not know.  The author, Susan Muto, says, "Like a good teacher, God instructs us by moving from the known to the unknown . . . from the sensible to the spiritual."  We move from the known to the unknown because there are many things we cannot know, and faith may come from what we do not know.

Can you imagine, though, walking into a classroom and the professor handing out a syllabus for the class that explains what you will not learn that semester?  Each student will know less on the last day of the semester than on the first day of class.  The syllabus says that the purpose of the class is to move from what is known to what is unknown.  It says that students will be graded on class attendance, class participation, class assignments, and on how many questions they are unable to answer on the tests.  The objective of the class is to teach students to ask questions, for which they cannot answer, and to learn how to live with the unknown.

This does sound like we are moving away from what is sensible, but it is also moving towards what is spiritual.  It is not blind faith, ignoring the discoveries of intellectual pursuit or asking uninformed questions.  It is a trusting faith, though.  It is the way that Jesus taught in the parables.  Jesus took what people thought they understood and then he created misunderstanding in order to make room for new understanding.  We move from what is sensible to what is spiritual, from what we know to what we do not know. 

Faith knows that we have not been given the whole picture.  There are a couple pieces missing from the puzzle, questions we cannot answer.  Although, faith trusts that we have been given enough of the picture to live by.  We do not complete the puzzle by trying to cut out the last few pieces ourselves out of scraps of paper and trying to make them fit.  Instead of clinging to poor answers that do not satisfy significant questions, we trust. 

This is important, as one person has said, "It is hard enough to get a good idea into a person; it is even harder to get a bad idea out."  We complete the picture of faith by trusting God in what we do not know.

Kathleen Norris says, "This is a God who is not identified with the help of a dictionary but through a relationship."  If we need to know how to spell a word, we can find it in a dictionary, and we can read its definition.  However, if we look up the definition of words such as grace, mercy, faithfulness, and disciple, those definitions will always be incomplete.  We can only learn the full definition of those words through a relationship.  It cannot be fully put into words.

We move from what is sensible to what is spiritual when we put down the dictionary, and we begin to reach for God.  We move from what we know to what we do not know by putting down our need for answers and holding onto our best questions, for all we are left with is trust in a God who loves the entire world.

 


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