My dog Scout is constantly puzzled by human behavior. He has this funny way of perking up his ears and canting his head to the side that says, “What? I’m interested but I don’t understand.” Scout knows a few words (“walk” and “treat”) and a few commands (“sit” and “lay down”) but for the most part all the language in our household is gibberish to him — beyond his ability to comprehend.
If Scout could write poetry, I wonder if he would identify with David’s lines in Psalm 139.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
This is an attitude that is unfamiliar to our culture.
We believe so strongly in ourselves that we insist that everything must conform to the patterns of what we know. With a strong enough telescope, big enough budget, or diverse enough research team, there is no knowledge too wonderful for us.
Even those of us who acknowledge a reality beyond human understanding use paradigms to access it that are formed by Enlightenment thinking. For many American evangelicals, our faith is in our head. We act as if walking with Jesus is a matter of knowing the right information, studying the right texts. Our church meetings happen in classrooms and lecture halls. The voices we heed are those who speak most eloquently, not necessarily those who love most deeply.
Scout doesn’t know what I’m saying most of the time. But he knows me. He knows what I smell like — knows where to find me — wants to sit next to me on the couch. As disciples of Jesus, we could learn a lot from him. Our faith is not a curriculum. Discipleship is about experience as much as doctrine. We must never be content with knowing the truth of God in lieu of knowing the God of truth.