Friday, May 09, 2008

Knowledge is Power, but Our Power is Generally Useless

Tim and I went for a walk today in our neighborhood. His favorite destination is down by the creek. I think he could sit for hours and watch it if it weren't for the stick in the mud who walked there with him. It always strikes me how poorly other people treat the area who visit. If they appreciate the natural setting, why do they abuse it? It's been spray painted, littered with trash, and the tree bark is gashed on all available trees, where various people must have used their pocket knives to show their macho prowess on them.
How long have people been carefully taught in the schools to appreciate the environment, to not litter, to love the trees, to leave areas unspoiled? I'm not even what I'd call an "environmentalist," but I am struck by their indifference. We homeschool; I've never taught a unit on not littering, on how important it is to love the trees, or on any of these things. Still, without all this special education tailored to the environment, my children have never littered (except maybe as toddlers, at what point they would have gotten their one lecture on it) and they would never think to carve into the bark on a tree. They may leave messes around the house, but that's different, somehow, and a topic for another day, for that matter. But to junk the sidewalks and trails with gum wrappers and pop cans that could so easily be carried home--what in the world? No amount of teaching helps society get past its lazy tendency to litter, and its inclination to destroy things of beauty. Teachers might as well just talk to empty chairs as to students who won't be influenced by the things they are taught.
The buzz-phrase in education, at least a few years back, was that "knowledge is power." I differ. Knowing that smoking is bad for you, that it can cause cancer and emphysema and wreck your breath and your teeth and make your clothes, car and house smell, and that it costs incredibly much money, this knowledge does not help teens in the fight against the desire to be included, to be cool among those who want them to join in the habit. Knowing that littering is unacceptable does not keep people from doing it. In spite of knowing that junk food is unhealthy, in spite of seeing "SuperSize Me," the documentary on McDonalds impact on one person's health, people consume it in quantity. In spite of knowing so many things, we act stupid, we self-destruct, we alienate others. We know, but it doesn't help. We are powerless in ourselves to do what is right for any significant stretch of time.
I remember wondering why I couldn't fix the problems in my life; my inclination was to have things go right, to fix things, to live a good life. Still everything went wrong. My relationships were all troubled; my health was bad; our finances were bad; our house constantly needed repair. I knew some of my factors in these troubles that would seem to help; still, trying to please my mother-in-law didn't work. I'd fix something on the house and another thing would break down. All the aspects of my life were like that. Nothing I could do in my own strength, in spite of any resolve, was enough to get through it, and the inevitable discouragement only made everything worse.
Where can we tap into the power to get beyond our own futile attempts, our own weaknesses? It isn't in practical, hands-on, general knowledge, though knowledge could help us make the right decisions if that were our inclination. It isn't in will power, because that can tend to be just a setup for failure. The only strength that can propel us beyond our own weaknesses is in Christ. He helped me to discover that my mother-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimers two years before--that in itself is an amazing story of answered prayer! He also helped me to find that I was anemic (which in itself can make a person feel overwhelmed and discouraged); He helped Katie get over her colic practically overnight. He didn't solve all of my troubles, but He sure did redeem my life from the pit! (For this life and for the life to come...His benefits in this life are just a tiny preview to the goodness of God, the benefits of knowing Him that will come into full view in Heaven.) Knowledge is power, but it's not enough in itself to compensate for our weakness, unless we will submit to Christ and come through Him to the knowledge of God. That knowledge and strength is the constant, ever-abundant power that we need for every aspect of our lives. Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired; His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."

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