Ugh, fractions. Fractions were the very first time I remember struggling so much with a concept that it made me cry. My poor Mom spent so much time, trying every which way she could think of to help me make sense of it. At times, it would seem to click. But then, I would move onto another problem and it would escape me again. I remember being so frustrated. I had to work so hard until it finally, finally made sense.
A few of the experiences we are having in 2020 remind me a bit of that process with fractions — like, times infinity. Between the coronavirus, discussions about racial equality and the media, my mind sometimes feels like one of those old cartoons where things start to overheat, springs start popping off here and there, and the whole unit collapses from exhaustion. (You’re welcome for the visual.)
I think one of the most challenging parts of trying to understand things these days is that the world is just so darn NOISY. There is endless information available and, it is getting harder and harder to vet the accuracy of the sources. Facts and opinions are difficult to discern from one another. And yet, when it comes to critical issues such as our health or human injustice, we simply cannot afford to tune it out or give up just because it’s hard and complicated.
I’ve spoken with several people recently who said something along these lines, “I don’t understand but I want to understand” or “I’m not sure what to do”. I have said this too, both in reference to the developing/changing information about the coronavirus and as we lean in and listen better to the lived experience of BIPOC voices. I do not understand but I want to understand so that I can do what is right, healthy, and just. More importantly, we need to understand as best we can so we can be part of the solution rather than perpetuating problems.
So, where does this leave us? What are we to do when information is conflicting, confusing, or difficult to understand? What do we do when we can’t seem to discern who or what is right?
We ask God. And, we ask Him first.
Let me say this clearly. I do not offer this as a pat answer. On the contrary. I think we sometimes forget that God’s Word is not only a guide, it is also chock-full of promises. And, as it happens there are more than a few promises related to wisdom, understanding, and learning. Here are just a couple:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5, NIV
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8, NIV
“Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:10-11, NIV
Dear readers, this is where we have to start. When I plow ahead trying to understand things without God’s guidance, I tend to get overwhelmed and frustrated. But, when I take Him along, even if I don’t understand right away, at least I have His peace and promises to rest in. Here are some examples of what that looks like:
“Lord, I’m about to go read about the rising COVID cases in parts of the US. Be generous with me Lord. Give me the wisdom to know what decisions we should make for our family.”
“Father, there is so much I don’t know. Lead me to accurate sources that honor Your perspective. Thank You for Your promise to teach me lovingly. Help me to be patient.”
“Sweet Jesus, I don’t understand but I want to. As I listen more and more to the lived experiences of people of color, help me to understand what is right, just, and fair. Grant me wisdom, discernment, and knowledge Lord, so I can love Your people well.”
You guys, we can’t do this alone. The wisdom and discernment we need right now are too important and too complicated to figure out on our own. And, the resources He’s offering us are too powerful to leave behind. We must bring Him along.
The fractions aren’t making sense again Lord. Make it plain, and make it plain again. We can not do this without You.