Complexity; July 15, 2020


Matthew 9:18 While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”

We get a lot more detail of this story from Mark 5 and Luke 18, which makes me regret including it from Matthew’s account. However, that just points up the two factors of how different people can remember the same events with different details, and also how the Bible supports and explains itself. You get some of the same thing simply from reading different translations. Where the NIV simply says “ruler,” the Japanese specifies “person responsible for the synagogue building,” perhaps borrowing from Mark or Luke’s account. In any case, “ruler” by itself in English gives a far different image of who this person was. I am reminded of something I watched just yesterday on the Internet. It was a woman giving a TED talk about the dangers of “a single story.” We tend to look at things first as essentially one-dimensional, which gives us a single story. The woman herself was from Nigeria, the daughter of a university professor father and a school administrator mother. She talked about how in Britain and then in America she encountered so many people who would essentially accept only one story about “Africa,” as though it were one country instead of a continent made up of many different countries. She said that stereotypes – which we have about virtually everything – aren’t necessarily wrong, they’re just one story, one part of the total picture. We are all familiar with the Indian parable of the group of blind men who encountered, and then described, an elephant. Where they erred was that each insisted that their own perception was the whole story, when each only experienced a small part. We all do the same thing all the time. It’s actually unavoidable, since our knowledge and perceptions are so limited. That’s why age tends to bring wisdom: we learn from experience how much we don’t know! God is the only one who knows the whole story, and the sooner we grasp that, the happier we will be.

I’ve always been something of a “data sponge,” and more than one person has described me as a “walking encyclopedia.” Even so, my knowledge is highly limited, especially compared to God. Bill Whittle, a commentator I often agree with, has said that “experts” are often the last people we need to listen to, since their expertise is most often in a very narrow field. In other words, they give “a single story.” Situations are almost invariably complex, and I’ve got to realize that there are things I don’t know about anything I’m looking at. That doesn’t mean I can never be sure of something, or that I am to be indecisive, but it does mean that I’m to be humble, and above all that I am to seek God’s guidance. Sometimes He tells me to do something that seems in contradiction to all the physical evidence, but in the final analysis turns out to have been right, because He knew all the details. I am to accept people as I find them, but always remember that they are far deeper, more well-rounded individuals than I can perceive. I don’t even know all the details about myself! I am to be thankful for the information I am able to gain, but always, and consciously, give God the last word.

Well, Father, I really went off on a tangent on that one! Thank You. Help me be open to receive all You want to say and teach me in any situation, whether it’s what I expect to learn or not. May I be Your agent to all I encounter, relying not on myself but on You, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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