“The chicken showed me where the chickens are getting out,” said my son. We soon fixed that hole in the fence. (Unfortunately, there were more.) What stuck with me were the words “the chicken showed me”. Those words indicate observation and attentiveness. And, perhaps I push the point too far, openness to learning from the chicken.
Philosophizing about knowing (i.e. epistemology) may seem arcane or excessively technical. However, what increasingly strikes me is that our mindset toward knowing and the way we think about knowledge ties into our overall stance toward life. Whether or not we study formal epistemology, we all have a functional epistemology: our conception of what knowing is, our ideas about what (and who!) it is worthwhile to know, and ideas about how we can gain knowledge. The first part of this essay highlights epistemological thinkers and themes that I find helpful. The second part notes thinkers and themes I have encountered in various parts of my life that exemplify the approach to knowing outlined in part one.
What Is Knowing and What’s Worth Knowing?
Steven Brubaker’s delightful essay, “A Mennonite Thinks about Knowing,” introduces key themes.1 What is worth knowing? God, first and foremost. God’s creation is also important and worth knowing. Humans are a key part of creation we should know and love. As humans, we also exercise creativity through our work, which results in what Brubaker calls “creation’s creation.” If we study history, or writings, or architecture, or carpentry, or any host of other things we are dealing largely with creation’s creation.
Jesus said, “Watch out for those Pharisees; watch out for their teaching.” Later when asked by the disciples who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus set a little child among them. When the mother of Zebedee’s boys requested a power position, Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking.” Accompanying His object lesson with the little child, He said authoritatively, “Be child-like.” In other words, power questions have no place in His Kingdom. The Rich Young Ruler simply walked away sorrowfully.
By contrast Jesus made a power statement one day, “When I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Myself.” Sounds like a power statement! What did He mean? Something is upside down.
And then He said in Matthew 18:1-9, “Whoever interferes with this admirable child-likeness should be drowned!” He followed that astonishing statement with another, “This kind of interference will surely happen, but woe to the power move which destroys child-like trust.” And then He followed those two astonishing statements by an even more astonishing one, “It is better to be maimed and blind than to ever do such a thing!”
What is going on here? Jesus simply comments that angels who gaze at the face of the Heavenly Father are involved with child-like people. The child-like people are the found people and Jesus Christ Himself sets out to find even more. It is not God’s plan that any child-like person be lost. As long as the gaze upon the Father’s face continues, no child-like person will be lost. The Heavenly host is composed of beings who experience gelassenheit.
Why is this happening? Jesus comments that where two or three people are gathered in His name, He is present with them. Now not just any gathering of two or three explains why He is present. Two or three child-like persons, communicating with each other, sharing burdens with each other, fellowshipping at heart levels, together reverently obedient, exhorting and encouraging each other, rebuking sin in each other, praying together, working together, trusting each other, blessing each other, forgiving each other, learning together sorrowing together, and more explain why this is happening. Gelassenheit.
Transcribed by Chester Weaver
How does one recover from abuse? What could be a truly healing process?
- Find hope by facing the truth.
- End denial and admit that abuse happened.
- Tell one's story without minimizing the damage. The damage is great and severe.
- The unlikey route to joy is honesty, repentance of self-protection, and bold love.
- Abused victims frequently move into heavy denial, as if a thick wall or heavy bulwark surrounded them. They must embrace no more isolation, no more denial, and find ways to move into honesty and openness.
Psalm 23:4 mentions that we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death by means of suffering, but we have possibilities of meeting God at a new level when we embrace our pain and suffering. The foundation for change includes the journey similar to the Prodigal Son - embracing the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the people of God.
Daily there are ways we must face the visible and invisible battles. Surrender to God in the circumstances and in the damage of our emotional turmoil and pain is so freeing. Jesus was a victim of much abuse, turmoil, and pain. He suffered unimaginable crimes against Himself; He was shamed, isolated, bleeding, and felt forsaken by God. (Mark 15:34.)
We can find joy by pursuing love. When victims are changed through the process of honesty, surrender, and forgiveness and a restored trust in God, they will over time experience a desire to love others as God has loved them. Isaiah 53 defines for us two sides of the cross. In verses three and four, our Lord was despised and forsaken, a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and we hid our faces from Him. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, while we esteemed Him smitten of God and afflicted. So He carried our griefs and the sins which others have committed against us.
In verse five He mentions our own sins, not just the sins of others against us. He was pierced for our transgressions and was crushed for our iniquities and the chastisement for our well-being fell upon Him. By His scourging, we are healed. The sins which we have committed are on the other side of the cross. The remedy is certainly the cross.