I love clarity.

1. clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.
2. the state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye; pellucidity: the clarity of pure water.

If ever I become President, my first initiative would be to have mandatory infusions of clarity for every politician, theologian, and organizational leader.  If only such a thing were possible!  Oh, what a beautiful world this would be.

Or would it?

This week for my Parable Bible Study, we explored the Parable of the Seed:

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 “He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”    (Mark 4:26-29)

The line that gets my heart all contorted is “although he does not know how.”  There’s no clarity in that!

Parables are Jesus’ way of teaching about the kingdom of God.  Just as His disciples wanted to know then, we today want to know:  What is the kingdom of God and how can I belong to it?   This parable in particular reveals that the kingdom of God involves a process. The seed is scattered, there is a time of unseen growth, followed by the seen growth and eventual harvest.  While theories abound as to what the seed and harvest may be, the point of the parable is focused on the process.

It is about the mysterious necessity of faith.  The kingdom of God requires an acceptance of “not knowing how,” but an assurance in the heart that “it does.”

I like my assurances to come with more substance than “I don’t know.” I like plans, especially detailed plans.  I like it when plans are executed accordingly.  But this doesn’t really require much faith, does it?

I don’t like not knowing if my mom will be healed of her cancer.  Or if my sons will walk faithfully in their heritage of spiritual upbringing.  Or what my life is going to look like in three years.  Will God keep my nephew safe in Afghanistan? Will I always have this annoying autoimmune issue?  Will I ever be all that I believe God wants me to be?  Am I where God’s wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do?   I wish I knew these things, and much more.

Think about it:  When are you most apt to have the most faith?  When a crisis hits and you don’t know the solution or its resolve.  Right?   And then when the crisis is “over, we’re so relieved.  We check “exercise faith” of the list of things to do.  I think we get this wrong.  Maybe when we have a  kingdom mindset we can welcome all the questions and unknowns as our way of  participating by faith in the mystery of God’s activity in our life,  even if we can’t see it…yet. If you’ve ever had a doctor give you potentially bad news, or received a foreclosure letter in the mail, or held a pink slip in your hand, or had a spouse walk out for good, then you know exactly what I am talking about.

As I look freshly through this parable, I can see how much for what we ask of God…and expect of Him, really requires very little faith.  So many of us, myself included, want the all-powerful God to act in our lives in such a way that we would scarcely need faith at all. No, none of us want the “night” of unseen growth–we just want God to wave a wand and plant full-grown oak tree.  Righteousness, peace, and joy–all virtues of the kingdom–take time to grow.

Maybe it’s safe to say that in matters of faith, clarity is antithetical to the kingdom mindset. This is discomforting to my flesh, but deeply satisfying to my heart.  How?  I’m not really sure–it just is. “…the seed sprouts and grows, though {she} does not know how.”

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

How about you?  Do you find discomfort in the mysterious ways of God?

(If you’re looking for a scholarly study on the parables, I highly recommend Stories with Intent by Klyne Snodgrass.)

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