Let me make one thing clear from the start: you’ve got it wrong. Your parents also had it wrong. Oprah and Dr. Phil? Wrong. Billy Graham, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama –– all wrong. Trump and Clinton…yeah, they’ve got it wrong. Even your annoying spouse, who thinks he’s right about every damn thing in the world has it wrong. Oh, and let me say this as well –– I most definitely have it wrong.
When it comes to the big matters of existence –– life and death, love and pain, and why are we here? –– each and every one of us has got it wrong.
We are all children, finger painting the sky. Some of us have more skill with our hands, some are better at choosing colors, some have clearer eyes to capture the scene, but none of us can recreate the sky with our fingers. Yet so many of us strut through life, holding high our clumsy paintings, boasting of our superior artistry, when even the most talented among us manages less than a shadow of the real thing.
I once heard a pastor describe the value of good religious doctrine. “Let’s replace the word ‘doctrine’ with ‘truth’ or ‘lies’, and see how that affects your opinion,” he said. “Let’s call good doctrine ‘truth about God’ and bad doctrine ‘lies about God’. Now do you see the value of establishing sound doctrine?”
His analogy made sense to me at the time, but eventually I recognized that when it comes to our relationship with the divine, the language of lies is the only one we are capable of using. It’s certainly the only language that makes any sense to us. We are too finite to grasp the infinite, yet we are endlessly compelled to attempt it. So what do we do? We do what we can –– we paint the sky with our fingers. We make things up. We write stories. We dance and sing. We design and build.
We practice our religions.
We do all we can do to touch the divine, but our efforts always fall short.
I think Jesus knew this better than anyone. That’s why he always taught using stories. He knew it was the only way to give us even the slightest picture of the truth. He shattered a world of judgements and misconceptions with his stories, and what have we done since? We’ve taken the stories he told and the life he lived and fundamentalized them. We’ve taken his paintings –– beautiful as they are –– and called them the sky.
If Jesus were here now, I believe he’d tell us we all have it wrong. But I also think he’d say it’s okay that we have it wrong. No one expects us to create the sky; we only need to experience it. We each need to experience the real thing, then do our best to explain it in our own way. But we’ll get it wrong every time; in fact, we won’t even come close. But it’s okay, and here’s why: if you stop and look around sometime; if you stop bragging over the artistic mastery and accuracy of your own painting, and look around. See what others have created. Put all those creations together, and you’ll get a clearer picture of the real thing. Still wrong, but closer. You’ll see a lot of right in everybody’s wrong.