I recently had the privilege of sitting in a meeting with someone 4 bajillion times smarter than I am. I’m not kidding. This woman knew stuff.
I use to find myself quite nervous in situations where I knew there was a vast chasm between my knowledge base and that of the person I was talking to. My mind would tell me I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or have enough letters behind my name. (FYI: I have zero) My posture would overcompensate for my lack of college degrees and I would follow the advice a random stranger gave me while I was wandering the streets of Chicago with my camera many moons ago.
“Just act like you know where you’re going. Act like you have every purpose to be where you are and you’ll be fine.”
It hadn’t crossed my mind to be worried about where I was going but clearly the gentleman saw a naive girl nearing territory she may not want to be in and felt compelled to warn her. I thanked him and stuck to the main streets from then on.
Act like you know where you’re going might be decent advice when you’re lost and don’t want to fumble in dark alleys with a map. I can see that. But as far as wisdom for life, I’ve come to learn it’s pretty terrible.
If we pretend like we know where we’re going, how on earth do we know where we’ll end up?
If being in a certain place at a certain time is all about acting like I belong there, faking it to fit in, impersonating those who’ve figured it out – then all I do is a sham.
I know it sounds high school-esque and trying to get in with the popular crowd but it goes so far beyond that. I know, we like to believe we’ve advanced as we head out into the real world post graduation, but how often have we soaked in the culture of a work place and made it our mission to fit in. Or maybe we’ve taken part in a bible study and been worried about speaking out loud for fear our words might not be big enough or christian enough for those listening. We stay silent until we know which words the culture in that room uses and then we spout forth our wisdom once we know we’ll get it right, once we’ve assimilated enough.
It can happen in any setting even as adults. We like to fit it, to belong, to be a part of and this can become a lot of acting when our minds or our hearts don’t know the right notes to sing with a particular group just yet. We’re not so great at harmonizing with a crowd, each of us taking on our part. Instead we long to sing the same note that everyone else is singing because at least that way we don’t stand out quite so much if we happen to get our part wrong.
Over the years I’ve learned that the older I get the less I actually know. Turns out, the less I know the more I need to learn and the more I need to learn the more open I had better be to dropping the disguise and getting on with the business of asking questions.
If I take one man’s advice and act like I know where I’m going, sure it might keep me safe this time. But is it not wisdom, rather, to ask some questions and learn which path I should actually be on? Isn’t that what will keep me safe in the long run.
It’s taken time but I find myself rarely intimidated by those who possess much greater wisdom than I do. Instead, I want to sidle up next to them and ask them all of the questions I have no answers to. I want to sit with them for hours and pick all of the facets of their minds and hearts and like a toddler pepper them with a thousand, “but why’s.”
If we look at the world, our country, our cities, our schools, our churches, our neighbours, our spouses and our kids and we stop pretending like we know where we’re going and in humility admit we don’t have all of the answers does it not force us to ask a few more questions? To find the people who know more and ask them why without simply assimilating for the sake of looking smart or fitting in or whatever our excuse is. Would we not know so much more if we opened our hearts to hear some answers as to why instead of waxing poetically all the live long day but never really understanding the truth.
Before I left the meeting with the woman whose mind knew so many things, I looked her straight in the face, craving one last nugget of truth, and asked, “Do you have any more wisdom for me?”
“No,” she said. “But if you have any more questions you may ask.”
I laughed. Of course she didn’t. She had already given me everything I needed. Because sometimes there’s no need to belabour a thing you’ve already been given the answer to.
She told me to walk forward in confidence. Right. I could use a dose of that just now. I’m learning the pattern, slowly slowly slowly learning the pattern. Obstacle. Humble heart. Ask questions. Petition God. Rely on His Spirit. Move forward in confidence. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
Isaiah 32: 16-17