Tuesday, October 01, 2013

That Evil Business

One great reward of translation work is seeing words as they are. The truth of a word in its original brings unexpected surprises, sometimes a shock--like licking a 9-volt battery. Once you do it, you don’t want to do it again . . . or do you? Especially when you have few to choose from and your guitar needs a replacement. But I digress . . . (who puts old batteries back in a drawer?)

We grow up saying it--”learning stinks” (or something to that effect). Hardly a day goes by when a Junior High schooler expresses his or her heart-felt woes concerning education. As home- schooling parents, we’ve heard our share of learning woes. There’s nothing new under the sun with this sentiment. Which brings me back to that place from which I began: the unhappy business of learning. Old Solomon said it plainly.

And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13)

That burdensome task is seeking out wisdom. That unhappy business is learning. The Hebrew combines the word “evil” with “business” to describe the task as unprofitable. Does this mean that wisdom cannot be acquired, or is not as highly valued as we make it to be? Is there an implication that God bestowed evil upon man if man searches out wisdom? No, I think the writer was being cheeky. Wisdom is connected to the fear of God, but not the kind of fear as if He were a monster. This is the healthy fear of respect, right relationship. When one seeks out God one finds wisdom, but one must work at it by asking good questions.

Learning can be an enjoyable experience and still be hard. There are many difficult, even borderline dangerous things we do that are rewarding: roller-coasters, falling with style down mountains on skis, lifting weights, playing physical sports. We enjoy the activity and shower off the sweat at the end of the evil.

Personally, learning is enjoyable. I was never a sporty person in my early years. I played sports, but did not enjoy them--never got into them. Now in later years I’ve found great enjoyment in the evil of running and lifting. Try and stop me from CrossFit. What I enjoy most is when the mind gets way “up there” and suddenly things mentally click into place--the blood flow awakens the brain (or something). I’ve learned about health and nutrition--and enjoy taking care of my body.

The same is true with mind and spirit. I write because I am learning--and sharing what I learn. I read the Bible and pray because there is more to a person than body and mind. I am a spiritual being that must learn, and often times, there are some things that cannot be learned by books and in classrooms. We are shaped by experience.

This seems to be the most difficult place to learn (the most “evil”) because sometimes, a relationship must be challenged in order to deepen. Life is abundant with opportunities for hurt and heal for the sake of learning. Teachable moments are all around us, though I admit I am not excited about most. These are challenges, but not impossible challenges. Just like lifting and running--you gotta push through to the end because there is no “quit.”

Wisdom is fearing God, which means more of Him and less of me.

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