Thursday, August 5, 2010

Zeal Without Knowledge, or, The China Shop

Sometimes I feel like a bull in a china shop, I swear. This is the second night in a row that I've jumped into a dinner that I thought would be quick and simple and instead it just turned out to be completely disastrous. Soup all over the kitchen, clumpy cheese in the ziti, and way more stress (or dishes) than I need over a "last-minute" dinner. But I jumped in without thinking it through... again.

Earlier today I was inspired to help a friend who is about to have a baby by setting up a meal sign-up calendar. I was excited to do it, so I set it up and e-mailed it out without running it by anyone (first mistake). Now it's been brought to my attention that some of the details of my set-up might be offensive to others (I won't get into why), and of course now that I've had time to think it through I see where I could have planned more thoughtfully, more holistically; seeing the whole picture in front of me instead of the one detail I wanted to focus on.

I remember one of the worst experiences I ever had at my most recent job was when I made a pretty major decision, one that affected a lot of people, without consulting any of my peer employees. The response from fellow staff members was awful, and I knew I had made a mistake, because I hadn't thought it through before acting on my excitement. In fact, that whole year at work felt like I was making one mistake after another. Like a bull in a china shop, I would excitedly run into something, shatter it all over the floor, and awkwardly back away, only to break something else.

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."
Romans 10:2-3

I have always applied this verse spiritually (as it seems it was intended), but what an important lesson to let rest over all our decision making. Often I find myself jumping into a task because I'm excited or inspired or moved, only to discover failure in the end because I leaped in on emotion (ah, selfish emotion) without THINKING. Paul told the Romans that while zeal can be positive, if it isn't married to knowledge it will result in pride and stubbornness. Boy was he right! The last thing I want to do after justly failing at something I was so excited about is admit I was wrong. Pride and stubbornness. Zeal without knowledge really is like a bull in a china shop. It is clumsy, foolish, and destructive.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit kindly and gently reminds me that my agenda is not the most important thing. His is. My zeal is not what matters because it is meaningless when divorced from His love and graciousness. "...God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." (Romans 2:4) I am so thankful I serve a kind God, who draws me back to His way of doing things like a parent patiently reminding his child of an important truth. Tonight I am reminded by the Father that faith often involves thought, and zeal must hold hands with knowledge, the two cupped together... spooning. That's right, zeal and knowledge have to spoon and walk the bull out of the china shop together. How's THAT for an over-involved metaphor!

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