Several years ago, I started giving away my books. Early in my ministry, I took pride in the collection of theological and ministry-related books I had in my personal library. I had various Bible translations and commentaries. Using books, I earned a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry. I thought that if I had all the right knowledge, I could discern God’s path for myself and my congregation. If I could fill my head with the right ideas, concepts and principles, I would succeed.
I discovered the knowledge path can be a dead-end. Though I did learn many wonderful and helpful things, I found less and less deep satisfaction in knowing ideas, concepts and principles. Knowledge did not equal wisdom. I needed to learn to “let go.”
For over a decade, I taught a course called BeFrienders which trained lay people in my congregation to do basic pastoral care through the practice of active listening. At the beginning of each new training course, I and my co-leaders would tell an ancient story about a young man search for wisdom. He traveled to a wise elder and began to tell the elder all that he knew about wisdom. As the young man talked, the elder poured tea into the young man’s cup. The young man kept talking and as the elder continued to pour, the tea cup overflowed. The young man looked in horror at the overflowing cup and shouted, “Stop, my cup is already full.” The elder stopped pouring and says, “Yes, it is. The cup is like your mind. Your mind is so full of itself that it cannot take in anymore. You need to empty your mind in order to receive wisdom.” It was several years before I caught up with the story’s full impact.
The scripture that guides my path towards wisdom is Philippians 2:5-7
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
I have thought a lot about what it meant for Christ Jesus to empty himself. Emptying is a way of letting go. Since Paul is talking about the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, it makes sense that Jesus gave up being “all-knowing,” an attribute that many Christians give to God. Throughout his ministry, Jesus was not all-knowing, but rather asked questions (Mark 2:8-9, Mark 5:30, 10:51). Furthermore, Jesus strongest rebuke was for the religious know-it-alls: the Pharisees and scribes (Mark 7:1-13). Now I understand Jesus more as a “love-it-all” rather than a “know-it-all.” A big part of love is letting go.
In the next few weeks I plan to write more on this theme of letting go. Letting go of my past, letting go of words, letting go of status and pride. It hasn’t been easy, but as backpacking has taught me, “a lighter pack (or mind) creates a more pleasant hike.”