Not An Expert

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Gentle Reader,

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why many discussions are so emotionally charged these days. It just doesn’t compute. I suppose I should blame my parents for raising me to ask questions respectfully and consider differing views rationally. Or maybe I could blame my journalism instructors for pounding into my head the importance of listening.

Or maybe I’m just a Vulcan.

In this desire to understand, I came across an article by Tom Nichols over at the Federalist,The Death of Expertise.” I recommend you go and take a look, for it speaks to our society’s current love-affair with heated argument. It sheds some light on why every issue under the sun is a controversial hotbed these days.

We all have different ways of approaching life. There isn’t a “wrong” or a “right” way to tackle things like housecleaning, keeping up with work emails, exercising, etc. There is, however, a difference between areas that we all participate in at an equal level and areas that require specialized, specific knowledge. We’ve lost sight of that.

Nobody should be blindly trusted, but we as a society seem to think that all points of view on every topic are equally valid, and that’s simply not true. It takes expertise to be a lawyer, a physics professor, a doctor, a true librarian (someone with an Masters of Library Science, which I don’t have), a professional chef, a speech therapist. This doesn’t mean that people without expertise in a certain field are dumb or that their ideas or questions are invalid, but it does mean that the layperson should respect the fact that those who can answer the questions know more. That they have a better understanding.

That we’re not always on that equal level, and that’s okay.

When making decisions that require input from someone with expertise, there are several questions that must be considered: Do I recognize that I need someone with expertise to address this? If not, there’s probably some level of self-delusion. Do I think, despite the disparity in education/experience/training between myself and _______, that I possess expertise? If the answer is yes, there’s probably some arrogance or a problem with authority. If I am angry with the answer, is it because I simply do not like the answer? That’s okay – for a time. A refusal to move beyond that anger is just sheer stubbornness. If I’m talking only to people who agree with me, or only reading things that affirm what I already think, am I truly looking for an answer? This is important, for nothing good can come from surrounding ourselves with “yes men.”

If accepting the fact that there’s a smarter person in the room is an impossibility, then we’re in trouble. This applies especially to Christians. The road of faith is supposed to mean a progression in maturity and humility, and where we are on that journey will show in all areas of life. If we go ballistic when someone dares to correct us, that’s a big ol’ red flag. If we ask a question and then go into a snit when we don’t hear what we want to hear, that’s a humongous stop sign. If we cry “hate speech” when someone disagrees (I’ve seen this one flying around a lot lately), that’s a flashing red light. If we sit around and smugly think that nobody else really knows what they’re talking about, that’s a call for a kick in the pants.

This hits me in a very real way. It is because I believe that this blog is part of God’s call on my life that I also believe that the ideas of expertise, maturity and humility are so important. I do not take to this public platform flippantly. The fact that anyone at all comes here to read is…daunting. A responsibility. I want to remain teachable and open to correction. I want to be able to admit to having limited knowledge and own my mistakes.

That’s something we should all strive for, really. Pride is sneaky. And deadly.

So allow me to declare that I’m not an expert. In anything. There are so many people who are far smarter, wiser, more experienced than I can ever hope to be.

And I’m grateful for that.

My journey to faith. (15)

Immediately

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Gentle Reader,

I broke up with my gallbladder last year.

We had intense, irreconcilable issues.

It’s amazing, the pain that one tiny little organ can cause. It’s also amazing how the lack of that organ changes everything related to eating. Used to love peanuts, almonds and pistachios. Can’t stand the sight of them now. Couldn’t handle yogurt a few months ago. Now it’s my best friend. Something that I usually love, like fresh, cool tuna salad, can quite suddenly look as appealing as mud without warning.

The biggest change has to do with the way I feel if I go too long without eating. The sensation is basically like having a stomach flu with an added dose of dizziness  Worst part? Fighting the dry heaves.

Pardon the TMI.

I got busy at work today and neglected to eat my snack, so by the time lunch rolled around, I was well on my way to hours of feeling icky (which is just now fading). The weakness in my knees and hands, something I have long known to be a warning of low blood sugar, should have prompted me to take care of things before lack-of-gallbladder kicked in, but I kept pushing the feeling aside.

I’ll get it in a minute.

Flawed thinking. Need to deal with it NOW.

So, too, anxiety. I let it build. One little thing on top of another. One comment, one deadline, one news broadcast. Soon I’m bubbling over with fears and sorrow; my mind lurches along, trying to cleanse itself. This is death. The mind ruled by the Spirit is the mind that faces up to and deals with the fears NOW. In the safety of His arms.

My journey to faith. (15)

A Theme for Spring

Spring

Gentle Reader,

The level of anxiety with which I live on a day-to-day basis has been bubbling toward the more-than-annoying point lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s time to adjust the medication levels. Maybe my diet is off-balance. Maybe there’s something bugging me and I don’t realize it yet. Maybe it’s just me being me.

Anyway, at this juncture I know that it’s not as simple as “just” praying or “just” realizing that I’m safe and that everything is okay. My mom reminded me recently that we all have things to battle, and this ill-defined fear and sense of unease is mine. If I’m not vigilant at guarding what goes into my mind, and therefore my heart, I’m toast. If I don’t take time to process a feeling or a situation, I’m sunk. If I start looking around, hoping to find satisfaction in “stuff,” I’m done.

So, I considered my next verse for this month’s SSMT 2013 carefully, and wound up with this:

To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8:6 (NKJV)

Put another way:

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (NIV)

I’m sure that you know this, but allowing the mind to be governed by the Spirit is no easy task. The other day I was freaking out about something (I can’t remember what) and I found myself actually saying, “But, God! You don’t understand!”

Woah.

He did not strike me dead for such a statement, for He knows how deeply human I am. But that got me to pondering. When I go down the road of believing that God can’t or won’t understand, then I’ve taken a wild step off the cliff. I’ve jumped blindly into that pit of death.

I’d rather that not continue to be the pattern of my life, and so this spring I want to focus on what it means to live under the authority of God, and why choosing to do so (it is indeed a choice) leads to peace. To life. There is no safety, no joy, no breathing space to be found in living outside His loving boundaries.

Stepping outside those boundaries is easy, and it’s not always immediately noticeable. How many of us who claim the name “Christian” go through each day trapped by fear, anger, entitlement, the pursuit of power or wealth? At some point we have to acknowledge whatever it is that’s got a hold on us. Then we have to take another step – turning away from it.

A hard task.

But, after all, what did we celebrate yesterday? The Man who achieved victory over the grave! The Man who rose again! The Man who left His Spirit within us! Surely He will enable me to step out of anxiety’s chains, one day at a time.

Surely He will do the same for you, whatever the chains are.

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