A few days ago our granddaughter Mackenzie showed us a monarch butterfly while we were Facetiming. The story goes that their mini-van developed a strange electrical problem. Michael had just unlocked the door to retrieve something after he closed the door the lights started blinking for no apparent reason. He tried different things to make them stop but nothing worked. A buddy from their church diagnosed the problem as a bad battery and offered to come over and change it. They found the butterfly under the old battery and gave it to Mackenzie. Here’s her explanation after overhearing parts and pieces of the conversation between Michael and their friend. Mackenzie reported rather matter of factly that, “The van broke because the butterfly got under the battery and lost all of its juice.” By way of definition “juice” is midwestern slang for electrical power, when a battery is dead its “out of juice.” But I have this strange suspicion that Mackenzie has apple juice in mind more than electrical power or bug guts.
Mackenzie did what comes natural to all of us, she applied her understanding to the facts at hand and arrived at a plausible explanation but in a four-year-old kind of way. To our more adult minds, her explanation is cute even if it is incorrect. However, whether we realize it or not, we often take bits of data, mix in a few assumptions based on experience, knowledge, or emotions and create an understanding which is skewed and incomplete. We do this with people all the time. We observe or are impacted by the actions of others and leap to conclusions. A driver makes a dangerous move, weaving in traffic, or pulls out in front of us, or tailgates before performing a risky pass. “Crazy stupid driver!” we want to shout. A customer is overly upset given the smallness of their complaint. “When will the guy shut up?” we think while shutting down behind a wall. A teacher won’t bend the rules on overdue homework. “Mrs. Jones is a real bozo,” gets plastered on Facebook in retaliation. You meet an acquaintance on the street or at church and they seem to ignore you. “Well that was rude,” we think and place them in our doghouse of super secret probation. All of these knock our ducks out of order and upset our world.
In order to reorder our ducks, we assume the motives of others out of bits of data and a lot of imagination. We assume the bad driver is just that a bad driver without considering why they are in a hurry. Like their recent phone call from the hospital, or the job they may lose because they are running late, or the hurt they are feeling because of their own out of order ducks. The customer may just be having a bad day, or they may have a larger unspoken complaint, or maybe their feet hurt. The teacher isn’t refusing late homework due to personal dislike but because of the desire to be fair to all and to teach a larger lesson on responsibility. The acquaintance is not mad at you but distracted because of a problem in their own life.
What we fail to see, the piece of data that we do not have is the heart condition of others. We only see the surface and make assumptions from there. Recall what God said to Samuel as he was examining the sons of Jesse to determine whom God had chosen to replace King Saul. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT) When someone does or says something stupid or hurtful we tend to focus on our pain. Seeing their words and actions as intentionally personal even if we have never met them before. “What did I do wrong” or “why does SoAndSo hate me?” we ask. But unless we put our own pain aside we won’t be able to see, pray about, or inquire as to their motives. “Lord, that driver needs your help, keep them and those around them safe.” Or, “Sir, excuse me. I can deal with this issue quickly, is there something else bothering you?” Or, “I don’t understand Mrs. Jones, can you explain why you won’t accept my late homework?” Or, “What’s wrong Joan,” we ask as we walk beside our distracted friend.
Here’s the kicker, we even do this with God. Like a child imaging a van killing butterfly we make all kinds of guesses concerning the ways and means of God. Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11–12, NASB95) “Where was God…!” “Why did God allow…!” “If this is a loving God I want no part of it.” These are statements of pain from a wounded heart seeking to understand, wanting to put ducks back in line, and, like the immature logic of van killing butterflies, drawing conclusions from limited understanding. Instead of blaming God for the circumstance and pain of life we need to take our pain to Him. Jesus promised, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33–34, NASB95) For, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:5–6, NASB95) So let’s lay aside our wrong-headedness, our van killing butterflies, and return to Him. “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:1–3, NASB95) It’s time. It’s time to push aside our pain for a moment, to release the need to know why and return to the only one that can truly heal our wounded hearts.