This is Vaun, a seasoned Antiguan cabbie that, I imagine, might be a lot like the guys who drive around the seedier boroughs of New York, bringing skeptical travelers to the best dives for from-scratch curry and elixirs and colorful faces. Part hustler, part tour guide, Vaun holds his own among the rabble, bringing business to the world’s most gorgeous (read: undeveloped) beaches, flexing his tenure with coarse shouts to the young beach hands for chairs and umbrellas and snorkels to accommodate his “guests”. Each morning, regardless of the number of previous mornings, you’ll receive his tour of the area’s sandy spits. Suggest otherwise, and you’ll be met with a thin smile and an impatient hand to boost you in the bed of his truck. This rubs some guests the wrong way. I find it strangely comforting.
It is no surprise, then, on Day Three when Vaun careens down a washed out dirt road to pick us up and, as we scramble in, announces the need for a pit stop. This proves to be the covert shearing of island flora from a nearby neighborhood garden. Vaun proudly displays his bouquet with gusto, nonplussed by his method of harvest. Apparently, once the preferred supplier of wedding flowers, his hold on this local market has waned in recent years. He’s thrilled to be given this opportunity.
On our last day, as we drool over fresh conch curry (prepared by Vaun’s sometimes sister depending on whether they’re speaking to one another this week) and waiting out a persistent storm, it hits me. I need Vaun. I need him to know who and where I am. I need his response to my inquiry about the impending rain: “Why worry about what you can’t change?” and, then, his careful attention to the weather and the clock. In this place, with sticky hands and sandy feet, I need to be known more than I need to know about the forecast and the time and what might happen next.
Upon reluctantly returning home, I began to realize how tightly I hold to this notion of knowing. Much of my self-determined value comes from what I think I know. People who study these things suggest that my need to know, to do away with any uncertainty, to be ever ahead of the question whatever it might be, is a typical response to growing up amid dysfunction. This is, no doubt, partially true, but I tend to think every single one of us falls prey to the allure that knowing offers, a struggle not just for lonely, ragged kids but for all who call Christ their Only, which is clearly evident by our perpetual unrest.
To know or be known? Paul, in Galatians (4:9), makes this distinction: “But now that you know God – or rather are known by him – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” It is never that we know God but that he reveals himself as the One who has always known us. When we stop for a single moment to consider this, the question slightly shifts: to know or to be loved? For, to be always known and always freely justified is to be relentlessly loved. Pondered this way, it becomes easier to abandon the knowing for its alternative. Possibly, the allure of knowing dims for the appeal of being well-loved:
“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:8-12)
A closer look at Paul’s letters shows that this knowledge we prize is totally useless when it comes to our salvation and future glory. That’s right, ‘future glory’; what we think we have in Jesus today pales in comparison with what tomorrow says:
“For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you will appear also with him in glory.” (Col 3:3-4)
And, “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” (1 Cor 2:7) Booyah.
Wisdom of God sparring with wisdom of this world, one offering dead-to-life power and the other…..fictional status? Esteem? Control? Our sin is not just a needing to know but also a misinterpretation of what is important to seek. Turns out real knowing is the receipt of a Spirit-given power, a mysterious glory that God slowly reveals to those who prefer to be loved than to know:
“For Christ [sent me] to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe….For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Cor 1:17-25)
And, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Cor 2:4-5)
This glory, our power, is Jesus. This glory, our wisdom, is his work on the cross.
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor 1:30)
This glory, our wisdom, produces, first, purity, then peace.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
Wisdom as a verb, an accomplishment of redemption and, then, peace and, finally, glory. I know I get this wrong nearly every day. Just this week, I began to panic from the long list of things I didn’t know during the midst of several mini-crises. And, as the stakes rise in the face of greater sadness, like cancer and death and addiction and failure and condemnation, the panic grows too. Yet, the wisdom we need to overcome this welling up lies in the declaration of what we don’t know for the power we find there. A knowing of nothing but being so well loved.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Cor 4:20)
“But God chose the foolish things, the weak things, the lowly things, the despised things, the things that are not – to nullify the things that are.” (1 Cor 1:27-28)