As a kid, a friend of mine and I would do something silly. We would take turns spinning around, twirling in the same place, and then try to walk straight.
Did you ever do this when you were little?
It’s probably not for everyone. Inevitably, what would happen? You would try to start walking normally (i.e., in a straight line) but would then find yourself inevitably, uncontrollably leaning in one direction, staggering in that direction, often even falling down. (And my friend and I would take turns laughing at each other.)
Why this inevitable leaning?
Because of spatial disorientation: what feels right and what is right are two very different things.
A very similar–but far more dangerous–phenomenon is experienced by pilots. In fact, they call it “the leans.” In flight certain aerial maneuvers can cause pilots to become disoriented without them knowing it.
And at that point, they have a decision to make: will they rely on what feels so right (their intuition or their internal navigation system, so to speak), or will they rely on their instruments (their external navigation system)? Will they fly by intuition or by instrumentation?
How they answer that question can mean the difference between life and death.
Scriptures’ wisdom literature speaks to this phenomenon; in fact, it’s repeatedly mentioned:
“The way of a fool seems right to him, but the wise person listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12.15)
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.” (14.12)
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.” (16.25)
(Yes, that proverb appears twice in the Proverbs. Hmmm… I wonder why. Also, in each of these the word “right” could also be translated “straight”; just like trying to walk straight after spinning around and around….)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and turn from evil.” (Prov. 3.5-7)
Jesus, whose wisdom was greater than Solomon’s, speaks of how deeply counterintuitive Christian discipleship is:
“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever would lose his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8.35)
Despite the fact that we live in an extremely disorienting world, the received wisdom of our culture calls us to lean on our own understanding, saying, “Only trust in one’s self”, while the revealed wisdom of the gospel, the counterintuitive, countercultural wisdom of the cross, says, “Only trust in the Selfless One.”
What makes us followers of Christ? A twofold conviction that, when we live life according to our own wisdom, we will only make fools of ourselves, but that the One crucified for us by the “wise” rulers of this world has revealed a wisdom that leads to true flourishing, a flourishing that our Father so eagerly desires for us.
And that twofold conviction erupts into worship when we realize that we did not have the wisdom to find or “discover” Jesus. He found us. That leads Paul to write of God the Father:
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1.30).
Will I live my life by my intuition or by instrumentation? Will I be skeptical of myself and of the voices of my culture? Will I listen first to the Scriptures and invite (not merely allow) Christian leaders and friends to speak into my life words of correction, admonition, and exhortation into my life?
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Prov. 27.6)