After our factory built home was moved into place, the deer whose territory we had suddenly invaded, gave it a wide berth for several weeks. Eventually, however, they understood the house would do them no harm, and they made the wise decision to use the trails again, even though some led right past the house.
Like our deer, we human beings also tend to fear what we do not understand. New ideas, new gadgets, and new situations seem chaotic and confusing, they frighten and bewilder us. Unless we process this chaos properly, our fears will drive us to reject the new things, and even criticise those who use them.
1. Chaos to Data: Gathering Facts
When my wife and I began living among the Canela people of Brazil, we couldn’t understand a single word coming from the mouths of dozens of excited Canelas surrounding us. It was chaotic! How could we ever understand and relate wisely with these people? Our training, however, had prepared us to step-by-step turn Chaos into Wisdom.
We jotted down the vowel sounds we heard, the same with consonants, greetings, and people’s names. We pointed at things like eye, ear, nose, grass, stone, stick, hit, throw, drink, sit, etc. and wrote down the sounds the people responded with. In that way we turned the Chaos of sound into Data, that is facts, and bits of truth.
2. Data to Information: Data Sorted and Organized
We sorted this Data: the vowels and consonants into charts, the nouns and verbs into separate lists, eventually developing a full dictionary. We compared, tested, and described how words were used in a meaningful context, thereby turning raw Data into useful grammatical and linguistic Information.
3. Information to Knowledge: Information in Context
“How does this Information fit into the total culture,” we asked ourselves. We learned about the Canelas’ kinship system and how they addressed relatives. We found out what Canelas believed about spiritual realities, how they treated disease, what they were afraid of, what their goals and aspirations were, and what they thought about God. As we gained a fuller understanding of how Canelas thought and lived we turned Information into useful Knowledge.
4. Knowledge to Wisdom: Decisions and Action
Before we could translate God’s Word into Canela, we needed to turn Knowledge into Wisdom. That is, we needed to apply our current Knowledge of the Canela culture and language to making wise decisions in translation. We naturally depended on our Information filled dictionary and grammar descriptions, our knowledge of the culture, and the feel we had for fluency in the language. The translation helpers we had trained did much work during this stage. But beyond that, we leaned on our gut feelings, our instincts, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, to make final wise decisions.
How This Works in Ordinary Life
A Christian young man, working as a computer programmer, wants to get involved in meeting the spiritual and physical needs of people in third-world countries. He prays and wants to give regularly from his income, but is bewildered by the Chaos of numerous organizations and individuals, all asking for his financial help.
He turns this Chaos into Data by gathering facts about the organizations and the individuals. He processes the Data into Information by sorting them into categories: what they do, where they work, if they are denominational or independent, etc.
He then turns this Information into Knowledge by putting it into the context of his personal preferences, the things that appeal to his emotions, that fit his thinking and theology. For the sake of illustration, let’s say he decides to focus on Bible translation. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?!)
Based on the Knowledge he has acquired he prays for God’s Holy Spirit to lead him and testing his own spirit in this Wisdom decides to financially support a family he knows that is involved in developing computer programs to use in Bible translation.
When we are faced with a Chaotic life situation, let’s not be afraid of what we don’t understand and simply reject it. Instead, let’s be godly (God-like) and turn the Chaos into Wise Actions as He did at Creation.
Deer do it by instinct, we can do it by design.