I Do Not Want You To Be Ignorant

By

Last year I read lots of books. I actually listened to most of them, as has become my habit. It’s been a good habit and it’s led to a certain set of skills. For instance, I can both stay awake at the wheel to audiobooks and fall asleep at night to them. Amazing, I know. I’m like the Dos Equis man of audiobooks.

I read lots of fiction, a little poetry, and of course in and on the Bible and theology. Then there’s history. I got on a Napoleon Bonaparte kick, spurred on by my shocking and profound ignorance, and gobbled up several on the man and his era. I read a few on the American founding and a few more on history of the Kings and Queens of England and surrounding nations. I love that stuff and keep reading more and more each year.

But this is the inevitable thing. After reading several history books last year, I’m more convinced than ever that I know nothing and should probably never open my mouth again. I’m also more informed than ever. How is this happening? I know, I know. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Thank you, Socrates. By the way, I loved you in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

I’ve never been and never will be a scholar. The only academy I’m really into is probably Starfleet Academy. My life isn’t going to be about serving in that crucial area. Others will go there, people who know how to tie a bow tie and who care less about West Virginia football. I want to be informed, not to be a fool, and understand what I can and ought to know. But you’ve come to the wrong shop for scholarly brilliance. (And all God’s people said, “Duh. Like, obviously.”)

I feel like I’ll never know enough to be as sound as I’d like to be, to be free from being found wanting in some important area. But maybe that’s misplaced desire. At least it’s not the identity-defining thing I can make of it.

For the Christian, this is our Father’s world. In addition to the “knowing you know nothing” cliche, let me add another. It’s not what you know, but who. For those in Christ, it’s not exactly that, though. It seems more apt to say that because of who we know, we can know everything, because he whom we know is everything. And on top of that we have everything in him who has and is all.

We don’t have to know everything because we know him and have him who knows and has everything. This is a relief.

And more than the thrill and relief of knowing him is the astounding news that we are known by him. (I’m talking about Jesus.) So, though ignorance is not any kind of thing to be desired (rather the opposite), we can be assured that the world isn’t spinning based on our achievement of omniscience. We, who were once far off and strange, are near and known. Good news!

Jesus knows me, this I love.


14 Comments

  1. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    We all must specialize. There is no one who is historian, theologian, pianist, ornithologist, artist, writer, chef, mechanic, luthier, or at least, there is none who do all these things at an equally high level. There simply isn’t enough time to excel at everything.

    In our chosen fields we can know a lot, and yet there is always more. We can become know-it-alls in our chosen field, or have an attitude of growth and learning fostered by the humility of knowing we don’t know it all.

    I am having a similar experience to yours, a real questioning phase for the past while. But it has also been a very creative phase. I wonder if those two things are not always inextricably linked.

  2. Kari

    Thanks for this entry! I’m with you too! I recently read a really interesting book, “Wide as the Water,” about the histories of the folks instrumental in bringing us the KJV of the Bible. I was totally stunned at how much I learned and the incredible amount I STILL HAVE to learn! And I want to learn it all! It makes it worse that I enjoy listening to pastors like Tim Keller who are continually quoting from millions of books on all topics.

    But yeah, it’s good to remember that it would be enough to simply have one book in the house: a Bible, and to be okay in the humility of not knowing anything else. Just that Jesus loves me.

  3. betsy

    Speaking of reading, I read lots of stuff–thus i only tend to skim this blog. Rapidly. Until there are posts like this. Then I read them carefully, think a little, and read them again. Thanks!

  4. April Pickle

    Mondays often seem to call for encouragment like this, so I thank you, Mr. Sam. Well done.

    “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
    “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
    “Not because you are?”
    “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
    –Prince Caspian, chapter 10

  5. Loren Warnemuende

    Phew! Thanks for the permission to admit that I, too, will never be a scholar no matter how much I wish I had the brain to be one. But it ain’t in me, and there are a lot of other things God did put in me, and for that I am thankful, because He knows what’s best for me.

    “Jesus knows me, this I love.”

    Perfect.

  6. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Ron– Good point. I wonder that too. I think in many ways this has been a very creatively productive period for me, though also incredibly trying. Maybe those things go together as well.

    YankeeGG– I’m sorry, I do not understand.

    David– Thanks, bro.

    Kari– I think we need other books to understand and appreciate that Book of Books in its complexity. But I know what you mean. Thanks.

    Betsy– Thanks so much.

    April– Well said, and thanks.

    Beth– Thanks!

    Loren– Thank you!

    Jaclyn– That’s wonderful. Thanks for saying so.

    Kimberlee– If we could only get Eddie Van Halen.

  7. Emily

    I enjoyed reading your post this morning and then just this afternoon read a few lines from a poem by Coleridge that seemed so fitting.
    “A sense o’er all my soul impressed
    That I am weak yet not unblessed
    Since in me, round me, everywhere,
    Eternal strength and wisdom are.”

  8. Caleb

    Great post. I love hearing anyone talk about reading.

    Lewis says somewhere that no matter how learned a man becomes in any field, he still remains a novice. Seems like that’s from Discarded Image or possibly Studies in Words (or maybe neither). But that from one of the most intelligent men of the 20th century (or ever?) is pretty humbling.

    And Ron is right, there’s just not enough time to excel at everything in life. Choose carefully (and prayerfully), and have fun.

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