Knowing that you know nothing
"True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." Socrates
It's amazing what you can vividly remember. Sometimes it might be something clearly emotional, and that, psychologically speaking, can hijack the hippocampus. But why do we remember particular random events that really have no emotional ties?
I was in my Bible study at Grace Fellowship. I believe the study was "Becoming a Woman of Excellence." One of the women was having an emotional breakdown, again. We were all trying to console her, and I, in my wise age of 25, had this to offer:
"God uses these times to make you strong. I lift weights, and this makes me strong. This experience is strengthening you."
As soon as these words left my lips, I could feel the word "idiot" being slapped across my forehead. These might have been the right words for someone else, but not at this time, and not for this woman.
I thought I was so much more spiritually mature than others. I thought I had insight beyond my years. Right.
Even in my 30s, I referred to people who were lackluster in faith "Fringe Catholics." It was judgmental, I know. I couldn't understand why people kept their coats on during church. I think Scott Hahn said something like, "If someone invites you to dinner, why do you keep your coat on? It makes you seem like you have somewhere else you'd like to be."
I would even look at what many of the people wore to church. Some of the girls looked like they were at a single's bar, and others looked like they just rolled out of bed. I remembered Scott Hahn's sentiment, and I wondered why people wouldn't wear something respectable to church.
It wasn't until I reached my 40s that I realized that regardless of what people wore, they were making more of an effort to attend church than the people who stayed home. I realized that if one morning their hearts wanted awakening, God would set the stage. We should be happy they were there.
It still, however, bothered me that people who attended church seemed very bored. I would look around at so many people in the congregation whose hearts and minds were elsewhere. In fact, the deacon had brought this up in a meeting last fall. He was concerned that so many people would show up late but ask "if it counted" as their obligation. He was so bothered by the fact that many people didn't revere what takes place at the altar.
I could understand his frustration because I saw it within myself from my 30s and 40s. I reminded him that God would find a way to meet all of these people, and whether we say something or not, they will feel our judging them in our words and nonverbal cues. Perhaps they might be a "Fringe Catholic," but my own feelings towards them echoes the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. God knows them better than we do, and he certainly loves them as he loves us.
More and more, I'm compelled to remain silent. I'm realizing that the more I want to say, the more it's just reflecting what I need to heal within myself. I know Thomas Aquinas had felt this way--that the more he learned about God, the more he knew what he didn't know.
We might feel that we have come to a complete understanding about God, but then God manages to throw us out of the nest to keep us growing more in our faith. We could remain there in our fixed and firm understanding, but then God becomes something we believe can be grasped. Our pride takes over our faith, and we find that our spiritual growth does not occur.
However, if we recognize that God is not something that we achieve, attain, or grasp, we see this small grain of sand as part of this vast ocean floor. We see that there is much more to know, and we refrain from judging any person on their own spiritual walk.