On the network news last night, the news anchor reported the death of actor Harry Morgan, best known as the acerbic Col. Potter on the TV series “M-A-S-H.” The final picture onscreen showed Morgan in that role, with the dates 1915-2011 superimposed at the bottom.
Over the years I’ve heard speakers talk about making the most of the “dash” in our lives–that long stretch of time represented in obituaries by the dash between the year we’re born and the year we die. So when the news anchor rattled off the highlights of Morgan’s career, it made perfect sense. That’s the way our culture measures a person’s dash–by reciting their accomplishments.
Christians are more likely to measure a person’s “dash” by what they did to advance God’s purposes in the world and by how they became a more genuine reflection of God in the way they interacted with others. All good, except that pesky part about us being human and broken and capable of repeatedly screwing up God’s plan. Ahhh….that. Darn. When you look at it that way, our culture’s way of measuring accomplishments is…well, tidier.
Poor God. He has to spend most of His time rescuing, rehabilitating and renewing us, so we’ll be able to carry out the audacious plans He’s had for us all along. And since we humans, by nature, are not all that keen on being reconstructed unless our backs are against some wall (which I’ve learned from repeated personal experience), God uses a great tool I call the No Clue Zone to do some of His best work. In fact, I think how we handle ourselves in the No Clue Zone is a much better measure of us than what we do during our “dash.”
The No Clue Zone is that place between the questions we ask and the answers we receive, when they come, if they come at all. Most us us spend a lot of our lives moving in and out of the No Clue Zone, so we might as well learn to make the most of it.
All our junk comes out in the No Clue Zone. We quickly learn whether we truly believe God is sovereign…or not. Whether we believe He is loving…or not. Whether we think our lives are safer in His hands than any of the alternatives…or not. It’s God’s version of The Big Reveal and it can be shocking.
We may discover that our trust is a mile wide and an inch deep…or we learn our patience is reserved for finding parking spaces but is pitiful when it comes to allowing God to play out His plans on His timetable…or we consider ourselves a benevolent, non-judgmental person until someone does us wrong and God doesn’t make them pay. It comes out in the No Clue Zone.
C.S. Lewis famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” So stop and think about where you’re feeling the most pain right now. What are the three or four hardest questions with which you’re wrestling? Will the meds work? Will the bank foreclose on our house? Will Johnny stay sober this time? Why did she leave me? Will I marry? Why is life always hard for me?
None of our circumstances are news to God, of course. He never slaps His forehead and says, “Oh, no! I never saw that coming!” And the lack of answers to our questions is not because He’s not up for the task. That leaves us with the uncomfortable truth that, for reasons He may never explain, He has allowed these difficult, seemingly insoluble situations to linger in our lives. What are you going to do about it?
Maybe it’s time to ask different questions:
- God, what’s your point?
- What is this telling me about myself?
- What do You want to change in me?
- Now what?
Sometimes we are the biggest obstacle to answers reaching us. Besides, by the time God finishes His work in us, we may realize that the more we know Him, the answers aren’t that important after all.