For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 1 Corinthians 1:19
Truth is a slippery thing. I don’t know if it ever can exist – at least the truth that humankind can create.
I wrote a little essay on my grandfather and a moment in time where my life suddenly went askew. Not very many people are left in my family of origin and I thought that my Cousin Lizzie would really enjoy it. I started to read it.
“As I was looking through my books for a Bible that included the Apocrypha this week, I found the Bible my Maternal Grandparents gave me when I was 7 years old. While I flipped through its pages an old white index card with Papa’s writing on it fell out along with a couple of Xeroxed sheets of paper.”
“Now wait a minute!” she said.
“That’s not right! Papa was your paternal grandfather.”
“Yeah, I know, but it makes a better story this way.”
“But that’s not right! You need to get your facts straight! You can’t go around messing up the facts! You’re passing on bad information. You can’t do that!”
I stopped and looked at her over my glasses and saw that she was really upset. Lizzie is the family genealogist and very concerned with accuracy. She did this genealogy stuff professionally and it was a very important thing to her. The truth that I was trying to tell was a spiritual thing – about how a life of faith (represented by that index card) is completely encompassed and enfolded into the larger stories of the faith of our ancestors. And as a literary device, implying that the person who gave me the index card was the same as the person that gave me the Bible, well, it’s a nice touch.
We each wanted truth, but a different truth and went about it a different way. She is very detailed oriented and for her it’s important. My husband as well – he writes accounting software. He subscribes to the philosophy “God is in the details.” For me, the story can tell a truth that transcends the details – but them I forget to balance the checkbook.
In so many ways, my husband and I are opposites. Just the other night we were sitting on the sofa, feet to feet, each of us holding our book or Mac. I was reading email and writing a paper and he was reading a programming book. He said “What ‘cha writing?”
“Well, I am summarizing a thing I found in Trible’s God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. She does some really interesting exegetical things with chastic structures. I’m wondering if this passage from John….” My voice trailed off and I looked at my husband. I could have been an adult from one of Charlie Brown’s TV specials, because he was hearing “Blah blah blah blah.” His eyes were half glazed over and he was saying “Uh huh. Yeah, Hmmm. Really.”
I said, “What ‘cha reading?”
He said, “Well I picked up this book on UML and design principles. You see there is more to good design than a development methodology, You have to really understand requirements analysis, library management and blah blah blah …”
I felt my eyes glaze and found myself saying “Uh huh. Really. Hmmm. Yeah.” After a while he stopped and we went back to reading.
Our stocking feet were sole to sole and I realized we were mirror images of each other. I am more extroverted, he more introverted. I love the big picture, painting pictures with large sweeps of color. He’s detailed oriented, finding fascinating the workings and the innards of things. I am the female, he the male. And yet we are both grounded in the same things. God, family, love, integrity; the plane defined by our feet, our intersection on the sofa.
I talked to a woman in my Bible study yesterday and she was extremely concerned about the two different accounts of Jesus walking on the water. I kept telling her, well you know that Matthew is very concerned about telling the story to Christians who were Jews who needed see Jesus as the ultimate Jew blah blah blah. I talked and talked. Finally she said, “Yeah, but which account is true?” Truth is slippery. We try to grasp it, but we can’t. I get so “high-minded” that I’m to any “earthly good.” I get lost in the big words we put on our theology (soteriology, eschatology, transubstantiation, supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism -- shall I stop now or dear reader do you want more?) Or we get so bogged down in the details, we lose the purpose – does it matter which account is “the truth” or is the truth of Jesus being Lord over all the truth that matters? Our debates become foolishness and Jesus himself a stumbling block if we do not stay grounded in the grace of the cross.
As for the sofa story – for me it states a truth. For my husband, well, it’s a composite of images, not a literal happening. We do sit foot to foot, facing each other on the couch. We do both use our Macs in this position, sometimes even sending emails to each other while wiggling our toes. But is it literal? No, but it states a truth. And perhaps we all can find a common ground, a plane of communication, a plane full of grace where we are grounded – in God and family and love and in integrity.