The question is, can we trust it?
We were in our old neck of the woods the other day, so we picked up our all time favorite pizza from a local shop for the first time in a couple years. Pepperoni, sausage, chunks of garlic – I really enjoyed it… and ate at least 3 or 4 slices more than I normally do because it was so tasty!
Unfortunately, a little after 3am, my body let me know in no uncertain terms that yeah, I had overindulged a bit. After I adjourned to the “reading room” and assumed the “thinker” pose, I pulled out a book of Sudoku to pass the time while… well, you know.
Anyhow, my concentration wasn’t the best. I was sleepy, not feeling all that wonderful, but I was still plugging along on the puzzle when all of a sudden I saw two 9’s in the same row – I had jacked up my Sudoku! Bummer! I was roughly 2/3 of the way through, and finding a mistake now is a pain - once you’ve messed up, you basically have to erase everything and start over, unless you can find a way to backtrack to the point of the mistake, which is really tough.
That was when a couple thoughts hit me about how life, faith and hearing God’s voice are kind of like solving a Sudoku puzzle… and can be affected by good or bad pizza! (Well, it made sense at 3am with a stomach ache!) Here’s what struck me:
* First, it occurred to me that if we have a logical error, bad assumption or mistake in our thinking at an early stage, it can have a huge effect on the life we build and the actions we take. We could look back at some point, realize where we made a mistake, and then see a trail of bad decisions, negative consequences and undesired outcomes. And, we may not be able to go back and fix it.
* Second, when we pray and seek God for direction, we may not realize that our ability to “hear” is being affected by our own assumptions and motives – i.e., the “filter” through which we perceive things around us.
* Third, sometimes when we take an action based even on the best intentions, good motives and what appears to be the “truth”, we might not know if our decision was “right” or not until we see the results when we get further down the line. In other words, sometimes we don’t know if we heard from God or if we just had some “bad pizza” until we look back at it retrospectively.
* When evidence conflicts with an assumption that we’ve held true forever, do we go back and start over, or do we just toss out our results and quit? The example I’m thinking of here might be those that grow up in church being taught the literal six 24-hour days of creation model, and when they run into evidence in school (evolution, size of universe, etc.) that seems to conflict, do they toss out their beliefs altogether or try to find a way to reconcile the scientific evidence with what they believe?
* The different parts of the body can examine the same information yet come up with vastly different opinions of it. My mouth LOVED that pizza, but my stomach was not in agreement with my mouth. Same thing is true for different parts of Christ’s body: we can see something like Rob Bell’s latest book and some will say “boy, this taste’s good” and devour it, while others will say “there’s poison in the waterhole” and avoid it like the plague.
* Lastly, everybody makes mistakes. I am so thankful that God is not so much concerned that we get our Sudoku right the first time, but He is willing to go back with us, find where the errors in our thinking/assumptions/motives are, make a correction and get back to helping us fill out the puzzle. God wants to help correct our “Sudoku”, but we have to be willing to look back and examine our lives, seeing where we might have made bad assumptions and decisions in our past.
Maybe we can start a new saying? “Life is like a Sudoku puzzle – you don’t know what you got until the numbers fall into place… or not?” Well, if nothing else, maybe I can learn not to eat too much pizza, even when it is my favorite.