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Day 34 of Lent: Look like you know what you’re doing

March 20, 2013

Verse for reflection: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13

An interim pastor at our church, Davis Yuell, once told a wonderful story of a time when he was in Chicago for a meeting and U.S. vice-president Hubert Humphrey was schedule for a campaign speech at the same hotel. This pastor suddenly became aware that the presidential hopeful (1968) would soon enter through a nearby door. Around him was a great deal of official hubbub with lots of Secret Service men and people with clearance badges.

This pastor decided he would stick around until someone asked him to leave. He had on a detective style trench coat anyway. One guard nodded to him; the pastor nodded back. He just kept up an air of “I know what I’m doing here” and soon Humphrey passed within arm’s length.

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“Look like you know what you’re doing,” is good advice but would maybe not work so well in 2013 around a presidential candidate. But it’s at least as valuable as all the rules your folks sent with you to kindergarten. I seem to recall saying the same thing when my friends and I would try something crazy at school or the mall.

The difference between kids and adults is that kids (at least until a certain age) think adults know what they’re doing. Doctors are nothing less than magicians, dispensing cures in bubble-gum flavored medicine. Clerks in an ordinary store are thought to own all those toys, which they give you in exchange for some drab green pieces of paper. Mom can always go to the bank to get more of those pieces of paper, and Dad (after repairing a simple broken toy) can fix anything!

The older I get the more I realize that all the people I once thought knew what they were doing are often guessing, hunching, even bumbling along. Now that I go to doctors much younger than I am, I can see their insecurities—the times they haven’t got a clue and rule out the possibilities like ruling out answers on a multiple choice test. Not that I don’t trust them—they still know more than I do about the human body, but I finally realize that they’re human, too.

All of us become experts at the things we do everyday. I can put one word after another pretty fast and I rarely stare at a blank piece of paper or screen. The school secretary or mom is an expert at sniffing out fake excuses. The farmer knows when the corn is ready to pick from the sight, smell and feel of the ear. It’s fun to reach the point in life where, no matter what your field, you feel like you really do have some expertise to offer.

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(That’s a little how my husband and I felt steering a sailboat on Chesapeake Bay last fall.)

Though it’s not always possible to know God’s way on a given issue, it’s comforting to know that God knows. We humans are bound by all sorts of limitations. God is limitless, all-knowing, all-loving. We can rest in the comfort of that knowledge.

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(Don Allen, who just happens to also be the pastor who married us, points the way.)

Action:  In what ways are you still learning to trust God? What areas of your life are you inclined not to trust to the Almighty? Maybe this journey through Lent can bring us to trust even those areas to God.

Adapted from Why Didn’t I Just Raise Radishes, Herald Press, 1994

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