When We Remember
You may have heard me tell the story about the one-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Ali was flying to one of his engagements and during the flight, the aircraft ran into foul weather. Moderate turbulence began to toss the plane about. Of course, all nervous fliers well know that when a pilot signals “moderate turbulence,” he or she is implying, “If you have any religious beliefs, it is time to start expressing them.”
The passengers were instructed to fasten their seatbelts immediately, and all complied but Ali. So the flight attendant approached him and requested that he observe the captain’s order, only to hear Ali audaciously respond, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.”
The flight attendant, however, did not miss a beat but quickly fired in reply, “Superman don’t need no airplane either!”
Recently, another humorous story made the rounds about two of the most prominent football (soccer) players of our time: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Somebody joked that Ronaldo made the comment that God had sent him into the world to show the world how to play football. A reporter told that story to Messi and followed up with the question, “What do you think of that?” Messi paused and said, “Honestly, I don’t remember sending him.”
Anyone who knows Messi would doubt that he would say anything like that. But it made for a great story.
Humor aside, that’s the way that often those in highly competitive sports see themselves. The best this, the greatest that, or the finest ever.
I draw attention to those stories because I would like to consider the larger context in which many of us find ourselves. Some of us will be granted access to the best education, others offered an array of possibilities for achievement. Many of us work diligently to position ourselves for extraordinary success in a rapidly-changing world. In any of these possible triumphs, a sense of invincibility can be engendered—regardless of what measure of turbulence may lie ahead.
Yet unfortunately, academic or material advancement does not necessarily confer wisdom. As someone rightly quipped, “It may be a smart phone, but it is not a wise phone.” How foolish it would be for us to take what generations preceding us have valued in coping with life’s turbulence and cast it all aside because we are “modern.” Now, of course, even modern is not good enough, we are postmodern. We sound more and more like a product: “super” “ultra,” “ultra plus,” and so on. In the process of so-called advances, we unwittingly forget what is needed to preserve any gain. Those values are cast in stone.
G.K. Chesterton aptly advised his generation that before pulling down any fences, they should always pause long enough to find out why they were put there in the first place. Removing “ancient markers” or boundaries is a risky endeavor. It is a valuable day in life when we realize that laws are in place not just for another’s benefit but for ours as well.
As I look at our world, I see a sobering reality. Governments seem to falter along two extremes. There are demagogues who think they alone matter. There are so-called democracies where people think freedom alone matters. Both commit the blunder of forgetting there is a law above our laws—and ultimately a moral law giver, God. There are values by which we must be governed.
In other words, we need wisdom as we process and distill all knowledge. But where does one find it? The irony of the call to wisdom in the Bible is that the one who spoke most about it, King Solomon, kept it all in the realm of writing great one-liners but did not apply that wisdom in living. He forgot the covenant God graciously made with him and his heritage—or conveniently chose to ignore it. This is a painful reminder that knowing does not guarantee doing. Doing engages the will and a preset commitment.
In one of his proverbs, Solomon writes, “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (Proverbs 3:13-15). From this same king we are told, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; cf. Psalm 111:10).
Reverence for God is where wisdom starts, with a recognition that there is a giver of knowledge and wisdom. We begin with reverence for our creator and translate that into reverence for his creation and his call upon our lives.
The God of the Scriptures is the giver of life itself. What a gift to be enjoyed. What a treasure to guard!
God gives to us a love that we do not deserve. We do not merit it. Not only is the love of God unmerited, it is also a love that grows and is sustained by relationship. Remarkably, God even utters a wedding vow to his people, pledging his covenant love and faithfulness: “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20).
In exchange, we receive the will of God by which to live and find delight. Nothing brings harmony more than remembering God’s love and embracing his will. Nothing brings fragmentation more than turning away. Our greatest weakness is not an enemy from without but one from within in our refusal to entrust our hearts to God.
On days when we are tempted by thoughts of invincibility, might we remember that falsely posing as a superman will only ensure a crash landing. There’s “Kryptonite” at every turn in places where we are overwhelmed by turbulent forces and weakening attacks upon inner strength. We can only reach our potential strength when we remember who is all powerful and humbly bow before Him. I pray we will humbly seek wisdom and follow it to its source so that He will lift us to glorious heights for his honor and our purpose.