I think it was Socrates who said, “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.”
I have a very dear friend who is experiencing this same truth right now, and since she is just fantastic and brilliant and compassionate and humble, I wanted to share some of her thoughts with you. One thing you should know about my friend is that about a year ago, she underwent a painful divorce, a devastating experience that drove her right into the arms of God.
The following is essentially a series of emails she sent to me, edited to keep her anonymous:
This morning I was thinking about my life and where I was 4 years ago. I thought I had so much figured out at that point. There would be times throughout the past 4 years where I’d look back and think about how things were better back then, how I had a relationship with God, I was happy and stable and figured out, and I would regret so many of the mistakes I made. But today, I realized that…I didn’t really know God back then, or at least not how I know him NOW. Even back when I was [in Bible college], when I was surrounded by Christians and learning about the Bible, I didn’t know God the way I know God now. That if my life had not totally blown up (oh heck, if I hadn’t totally blown up my life), I never could have ended up where I am now. And I don’t mean “here” like “in this job/house/etc,” but “here” as in…being forced to look at the world we live in, to think about the God I thought I knew, and to look to the Bible and ask myself, “Have I ever really understood God?” There were times I thought I did; many more times when I knew I wasn’t living for him but threw his name around anyway; times when I desperately wanted to find him so I could know that I hadn’t screwed up to the point of no return; times when I wanted a quick fix of good feelings before going on my own path. Recently, I’ve had to throw away everything I used to think about God and start fresh. I never could have done that if I was still married. I wouldn’t have dared look at what I thought was right and asked, “Am I sure?” When I stopped asking questions about God, he stopped answering. When I started asking questions, he started blessing me.Now I feel like I just get so much of him. Why did God ignore the “righteous” and look to the “sinners”? It’s not just that he is merciful and not just that the sinners needed him…it’s also that the sinners were the ones willing to ask the right questions. They were the ones to say, “Really, God? There’s room for me, too? Even though this is who I am?” So much of my life I lived like one of the Pharisees while thinking I was a lamb. HOW MUCH I’ve learned; HOW MUCH I’ve gained from realizing that I really never sat down and asked God about who he is, what he wants, what he thinks. I just listened to others, looked at some words in the Bible, and thought I knew it all. I knew nothing. Now, in doubting him and his plan, I’ve actually come to my greatest knowledge of who he really is.I can’t remember, but I think I told you a few weeks ago that I received the first EVER assurance of my salvation. How funny that it came at a time when I’m looking skeptically at the Bible and digging deeper to ask questions instead of accepting it at face value; funny that it came when I’m divorced instead of married; funny that it came when I’m more focused on being a strong, SINGLE career-woman instead of a wife and mother. My whole world has flipped upside down. I think it saved me….I think it (my sin, my knowledge of my sin, the loss of my marriage, the loss of my faith) actually saved my faith and my soul.I just can’t help but regret all the years I’ve wasted not really knowing God. That I sat at a [Christian college] and took in everything I was told about God, adopted beliefs because they were “God’s beliefs,” and never took advantage of the resources and community I had. That I was too afraid to say, “Yes, but what about…” and that any answers to tough questions were either dismissed with, “We just need to accept that’s who God is” or “we live in a fallen world, so that’s how it goes.”I know now that I’m way too radical for most mainstream Christians to take me seriously. I know that 4 years ago, I wouldn’t have taken me seriously. But now I can look back and know that when I thought I had all the answers, I really had none, and when I thought I knew God, he was a remote figure to me. Now I have REAL fath, REAL knowledge, REAL love, REAL security.You’ve said before that you think God allowed sin into the world because the Cross was just a better way. I read recently that someone suggested the fall occurred because all good stories need conflict to move the story forward. I think about these things and I can ask myself, “Why am I divorced?” and “How can I forgive myself?” and even, “How can GOD forgive me?!” But if the whole reason for all of this was for me to get to a place to really know God, and if I couldn’t have arrived there without all of this, then I am a very very lucky woman to have a God who loves me enough to put me through hell to get to heaven on the other side.