I want to know truth. I pray so often that God will teach me. I want to know God as deeply as possible, and I want to be able to understand my world, and not only think clearly about it, but also to think properly about it.
And so I pray that God would speak to me. For instance, right now we are being told truckloads of contradictory things by the media. I’m not there, so how am I supposed to know what’s true? I can’t trust the media, politicians, or even business people (who are often trying to sell me something), so I want God to tell me. What I want is that in a time of meditation, I will hear thoughts so clearly in my head I’ll know it’s the voice of God. I would even love to hear an audible voice, but that never happens. In any case, I want God to show me the way and to tell me what’s true.
But I came to realize this morning that even though this has a measure of security and possibly objectivity to it, if God just tells me, I will never learn to perceive, to think, to discern, and I won’t grow wise. I will instead grow weak and dependent. If I’m going to learn to use my brain, then God can’t just tell me. I’ll never learn to work at it, to examine, to perceive, to weigh, to think, to balance, to recognize, or to discern. I will never learn one of the most essential life skills possible—that of growing in truth.
Truth is found, not dumped on us. We have to learn how to discern the truth. We generally are not taught the truth; instead, we find it and have to learn to recognize it. Truth is always out there. I have to have the eyes to find it and recognize it.
I must learn to synthesize. The Hegelian dialectic: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Recognition of truth and moving into other truths, more truths, and deeper truths is more like synthesizing truths we already know into new picture than it is arriving at something completely new. It’s our job to recognize patterns and assemble new ones. That’s how we grow in truth. It’s more like a tower of blocks—today’s thoughts building on yesterday’s thoughts—than it is God (or anyone else) dropping truth on me.
In that sense the discernment of truth is like the creative process. Creativity is often not coming up with something completely new, but instead putting thoughts together in unusual ways that lead to a new product.
There is a sign on the wall in my mother-in-law’s bedroom: The wisdom of the wise is an uncommon degree of common sense. Truth comes to those who know how to think. It’s often classic and simple 2+2 to the 1000th power. Their minds are always discerning and synthesizing in ways that other people’s just don’t. These people see the truth where others do not.
So when I ask God to lead me into truth, or when I pray for wisdom, I have to realize that I’m asking God to walk me down a path of recognition, discernment, synthesis, and eureka—a process that requires a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, weighing, evaluating, wrestling, struggle, recognition and conclusion than God just plopping it on me and me walking away a happy camper. Truth and wisdom are hard work that belong to good thinkers, not the easy path of God droppings.