“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali
I remember learning to drive a car. The driver’s seat and I were always sweaty after a lesson or practice. All those pedals, levers, pushing and not pushing, turning or not turning, dials and speed, brakes and accelerator, advice to do this and advice to not do that … and that was just inside the car! There was “the outside” as well!! Roads that weren’t straight … stop and give way lines … stop and go lights … pedestrians who might at any moment throw themselves in front of the car … and all those other cars on the road!! … all driving too fast … all getting in the way … all expecting me to know what I was doing … and all with the capacity to kill someone or be killed! This was fun? This was NOT fun!
Fast forward thirty years?
The feet and hands do the inside bit, and the eyes and brain (and heart) do the outside bit. How does that work? No idea – it just does. How do I “read” the behaviour of other drivers? No idea – I just do. How come I haven’t had an accident? No idea – I just haven’t. Do I stick to all the rules and regulations? Most of the time. Would I ever do less speed that the “speed limit”? Oh yes – there are loads of times when “stuff around” means going much slower than the “limit”. How would I know? No idea – I just do. Do I enjoy driving? Most of the time yes. Why? Loads of reasons – but they change from day to day.
Now “fast back” thirty years: “Don’t tell me all that stuff – what do I do next … ?”
How often do we entangle ourselves in the finer points of theological “nuance”, the subtleties of hair-splitting “belief”, the insistence that others “get it” simply because “I have got it (so it is obvious)” How often do we ignore “Don’t tell me all that stuff right now!” – how often do we insist others are told that stuff right now? How often do we entangle ourselves in doubt, trepidation because someone said we should … because someone else said we shouldn’t?
I can – I do – I am right now.
This morning John the Baptist doubted. This morning John the Baptist doubted his life, his “work”, his “mission”, his own hearing. John was in prison for living his belief. Under threat of death for living his calling. Soon to be dead at the whim of one who believed she was offended, another who believed she was obligated to her mother, and yet another who believed he could not “lose face”.
An entanglement of beliefs.
Much has been written about these verses. This morning He brought me a simplicity. A clarity. A thought I would not have had thirty years ago. And a thought I may not have thirty years from now.
‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’ Luke 17:22-23
I believe in questions. I believe in curiosity. I believe “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”
How can I not then also believe you have that same freedom? How can I not allow you that same freedom? How can I take offence at you? And why would I want to? Because you disagree with me? Because you don’t get it as I get it?
“Dear Paul, when you take offence you will always be saying: Don’t tell me all that stuff! Living and loving is not “driving a car” – living and loving is not finding the right beliefs – living and loving is finding the moment – where you and another “are” right now – how to share the moment – how to empower – liberate – build-up – finding out how to Love! Blessed is ANYONE who takes no offence at me – anyone.”
Thirty years ago? I would never even have dared imagine “He would speak to me”. So why does He speak to me now?
I have no idea – He just does.