In C.S. Lewis’ book That Hideous Strength, one of the arch-villains is a decapitated head. Men fear and bow before “the Head” as they would a god. Pretty grizzly stuff.
We live in an age where mankind exalts our own heads.
Ask people what separates us from the animals (or “other animals”), and many will say it’s our intelligence. Ask a political leader of either major party how they’re going to solve our chronic social problems, and most will include something about education. It’s as though we collectively genuflect at the uncontested saying, “knowledge is power.”
I get it. We are smarter than the animals, good education is a help to much of what ails us, and knowledge does empower. But really? Is human intellect really the biggest thing that separates us from animals? Is education really the only solution to our social problems that we can agree on? And is knowledge always power?
Even within Christendom, where we hold as foundational that we cannot save ourselves, you’ll still find an exalted veneration of knowledge seeping into what we say and do. Could this be why so many of our churches place the teaching at the center of our Sunday services and Bible “study” at the center of our mid-week gatherings?
Certainly, godly teaching and Bible study are crucial to Christian discipleship, and I am for churches doing a better, not lesser, job at these. Even so, it is Scripture that teaches us our thinking cannot save us, even our right thinking about God.
Jesus told the religious of his day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39, 40).
Apparently, we can know about God without knowing God, we can gather around His words without coming to Him, we can identify Him on the page without recognizing His face.
Thank God for hunger.
For the religious and rebellious alike, hunger can take us beyond trying to satiate our intellects and instead urges us to come to His actual table. It was hunger that drove the younger son to come home, but it was also hunger that brought the older son out of the fields.
For them and for me, real hunger can be hard to acknowledge, and harder still to accept an invitation to the table. To do so means my answers have fallen short, I don’t know Him as much as I should by now, I am malnourished and in need.
This is one of the reasons I love Lent. The ancient practice of fasting invites us beyond our know-how and into a place of simple hunger, where we find ourselves empty and needy.
Lent reminds me of my hunger and affirms my hunger is good.
Augustine said, “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.”