Sunday, April 28, 2013


Two nights ago as I was drifting off to sleep I was somewhat aware of CJ reading a paragraph out loud to Charly to get some feedback. From my semi-conscious state, my mouth seemed to open without my intending it to and I said something like, “I think you should say ‘included’ instead of ‘including.’”

Charly and CJ told me the next morning that they were shocked to hear me offer feedback when they thought I was already asleep. I confessed that I felt more asleep than awake and halfway through my sentence I wondered why I was talking because I honestly had no idea what I was saying.

I was clueless. It’s not a rare occurrence.

A few weeks ago I got a phone call and could not figure out—for the life of me—who the caller was or what he wanted. As he was talking, I was trying to focus on what he was saying while simultaneously trying to put him into a “box” that made sense. I heard him say “shi yan zhong xue” and the only box I could think of was the group of local high schoolers that Charly and Joshua had recently met on the train going to the same MUN conference in Beijing. But this man was also talking about where we lived and so I repeated some of his words to try to help me figure them out: “But we don’t live beside the Experimental Middle School.”

“Mom,” Joshua called out across the room. “He’s talking about our apartment in Tianjin.”

“Ohhhhh.” The light bulb then went on in my brain and I was finally able to understand that he was interested in renting our Tianjin apartment when the current renter’s lease runs out in June.

 I have had many, but probably my most clueless moment came about 10 years ago when I almost electrocuted a man.

We were having an air conditioner installed in Jordan’s room in our home in Tianjin, and the service man had a heavy southern accent so that I was having trouble understanding him. As he was giving me unintelligible instructions, I did all that I could think to do. I nodded like I understood him. Then he went outside to work on the air conditioner’s fan box attached to the brick wall of our apartment building.

After he left, I was standing in Jordan’s room by myself, getting a little bored, and I thought, “I ought to turn on the air conditioner with the remote and see if it works.” So I did, and it did come on and I was feeling good that it was working. Until moments later when the installation man appeared in Jordan’s doorway with a very red and angry face. As soon as I saw his face I knew exactly what his instructions to me had been.

“Whatever you do, don’t turn on the air conditioner. Or you will electrocute me.”

Thankfully, I didn’t kill the man, but he was really not happy with me. He had more unintelligible words to say that I didn’t need to understand to know what he meant.

I think of that air conditioner story as my “Emmaus moment.” It’s what comes to mind when I imagine the cluelessness of the disciples, so that they didn’t even recognize Jesus walking along the road beside them. Until Jesus opened their eyes. Then the light bulb turned on, and everything made sense.

This afternoon as I was reading out loud to our kids the chapter about Jesus’ death in The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, I was especially struck with his question, “How can we who know the outcome in advance ever recapture the dire end-of-the-world feeling that descended upon Jesus’ followers?”

The two downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus, full of unmet expectations about Jesus, said to the stranger, “We had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” After this the stranger opened the Scriptures to them and explained why the Messiah had to suffer, so that their hearts burned with them and they understood. They were filled with joy when they realized that the stranger was actually Jesus. And they ran back to Jerusalem to share the good news with the other disciples who were still in confusion and despair after Jesus’ death. (Luke 24)

Yancey says, “What changed history was the disciples’ dawning awareness (it took the Resurrection to convince them) that God himself had chosen the way of weakness. The cross redefines God as the One who was willing to relinquish power for the sake of love.”

May God work today through our cluelessness in how we understand Him and how we understand what He’s doing. May He break down all of our misunderstandings and the “boxes” we try to put Him in. And may He give us an ever-increasing understanding of Him, the way He redefines Himself.

Our God gives hope to the hopeless.
Rest to the restless.
And clues to the clueless.

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