Confidently Un-oriented (part 2)By
Ironically, shortly after I posted part 1 to this piece, a person in my Facebook network posted: “Today during language I realized how much I don’t know a little bit more than I usually do. It freaked me out.” This is disorientation. It can be a little scary, but it can also be very rewarding. The question for people, like Timothy, when they enter this state, is “how will I respond?” “Now that my wrong assumption has been obliterated, what do I do with my newfound insight?”
Jesus spoke of both the man who became disoriented and the man who remained confidently un-oriented. The Teacher tells a story of two sons. The younger crashes and burns and then says to himself, “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” He was desperate for change because things had not turned out half as well as he had first envisioned. This was the beginning of his disorientation. Phase two kicked in when he gets close to his childhood home and is greeted and embraced by his father. Dad drives the point home for him: “Quick! Bring the best….he was lost and is found.” Then the party began. (As an aside, I think it is great that Jesus was in favor of a good party at the right times.) The older brother does not seem to rethink things. He is confident in his own goodness: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” He continues to be resolute in the shortcomings or the lack of wisdom of the father: “Yet you never gave me….” (Lk 15:11-32)
A profound example of disorientation is in the story of Habakkuk. In the first part of the story Habakkuk tells God that he, Habakkuk, is getting tired of waiting for God to fix things so that the Israelites would not continue in severe persecution. He says: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save.” Once again, here is a man starting a discourse while confident in his ignorant wisdom. God responds in a way Habakkuk never would have guessed: “I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians…to seize dwelling places not their own.” Habakkuk replies with a highfalutin version of ‘God are you crazy?’ He says: “O Lord, are you not from everlasting? …Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” But then Habakkuk gets smart. He seems to prepare himself for disorientation. He says, “I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” God then lays out a plan of destruction because of the sin of Israel. Through all of this, God reveals the truth of the gospel: “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by faith….You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.” Disoriented and changed, Habakkuk replies: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy….Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” At this point Habakkuk understands the sinful behavior of his people. This now makes sense to him through the span of history as he has a new, deeper understanding of the holiness and majesty of God. (Hab 1-3)
The rich young ruler, a final example for this post, came to Jesus seeking affirmation of his own goodness and right standing. Confidently un-oriented he replied to Jesus instruction about keeping the last 6 commandments: “All these I have kept….What do I still lack?” When told that his wealth kept him from obeying the first four commandments, the man was profoundly disoriented. This was not at all the way he expected this encounter to unfold. He left sad with his riches having a little less luster than before, but eternal life not being opulent enough to pursue change. (Mt 19:16-30)
Disorientation does not automatically equal meaningful change. It is a prerequisite, but not a guarantee. The wayward son and Habakkuk changed through their disorientation process. The older brother and rich young ruler did not.