From Chaotic Confusion to Clear Wisdom in Four Steps

Six years ago, after taking delivery of our factory-built home, 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 used the old 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 are chaotic and confusing; they frighten and bewilder us. Unless we process this Chaos correctly, our fears will drive us to reject these new things even though they are highly recommended by those who understand them.

Step One: From Chaos to Facts
Five decades ago, when my wife and I began living among the Canela people of Brazil, we could not 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 to these people, let alone translate the Bible with them? Fortunately, our training had prepared us to step-by-step, turn Chaos into Facts.

Old men have infinite patience. They were my favorite language teachers

Using special symbols, we wrote down the sounds we heard, the greetings, and people’s names. We pointed at body parts like eye, ear, nose, and objects like grass, stone, stick, as well as actions such as hit, throw, drink, and filled our notebooks with the sounds we heard coming from the Canelas’ mouths. In that way, we turned the Chaos of sounds into Facts.


Step Two: Sorted and Organized Facts Become Information
We sorted these Facts: 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 thousands of Facts into useful Information about the Canela language.

Step Three: Placing Information in Context Becomes Knowledge
“How does this Information fit into the total culture?” we asked ourselves. 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 the context of Canela thinking and living, we turned Information into Knowledge.

Step Four: Making Decisions and Acting on Knowledge Becomes Wisdom
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. We depended on the Canela translation helpers we had trained, our Knowledge of the Bible, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, to make final wise decisions.

How This Works in Ordinary Life
I remember meeting a young computer programmer who wanted to help meet the spiritual needs of people in third-world countries. He planned to pray and regularly give from his income but was bewildered by the Chaos of numerous organizations and individuals, all looking for financial and prayer partners.

Step One: He turned this Chaos into Facts by researching the organizations.

Step Two: He processed the Facts into Information by sorting them into categories: type of ministry, location, policies, etc.

Step Three: He then turned this Information into Knowledge by putting it into the context of his personal preferences, the things that appealed to his emotions, that fitted his thinking and theology.

Step Four: Based on this Knowledge, he prayed for God’s Holy Spirit to lead him and then made a Wisdom decided to financially support a missionary family he knew who was involved in developing computer programs to use in Bible translation.

Have a great couple of weeks turning Chaos into Wisdom. Deer do it by instinct; we can do it by design.


Why Things Go Wrong When Our Spouse is Away.

“Oh no!” I muttered as the engine suddenly quit and our car coasted to a stop by the side of the road to the airport. Jo turned to me with that “Not again!” look on her face. I checked the gauges, ran the starter, but the engine was dead.

“You’re not even gone and already my problems are starting!” Jo said, “Last time I was already half way home from taking you to the airport when the radiator hose burst!”

“I’m sorry, honey, but I’ve got to go. I’ll flag down a taxi, and when I get to the airport I’ll call for a tow truck. I’m so sorry it’s beginning already. I’ll pray for you.”

What do you know about dryers, Jesus? Any ideas?

Why is it that every time I leave, my wife has to cope by herself with things outside her area of competence like broken washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators? All of which were working fine while I was home. Why did the furnace fan start to squeal so horribly that cold winter night? “Is it something serious?” she worried. “Do I need to shut off the furnace?”

My daughters tell of similar coincidences. Not just with wrecked vehicles, conked out appliances and leaky roofs, but coping alone when kids get sick. It’s not easy for a young mother of two to decide alone at midnight if it’s okay to wait until the morning to see a doctor or to pack up the baby and take the feverish toddler to Emergency immediately. I’ve heard these types of stories many times, usually from wives, and sometimes from husbands left alone with their children.

Daddy! Baby crying!

Why is it that so many times when a spouse leaves on a business or ministry trip things start going wrong at home?

There is a sound theological reason for this phenomenon. We all know that God intends our life to be a growing experience. And just as an athlete develops her muscles by stressing them and working against resistance, so God develops our character and ability to cope by bringing adversity for us to deal with. If the athlete’s husband lifted the weights for her, she would grow no muscles.

A good spouse is a partner who takes full responsibility for certain areas of home life. Often the husband takes care of the mechanical stuff. When something breaks down, he prides himself in making sure it is fixed quickly and permanently. This eliminates several areas of stress the wife never has to deal with.

But when the husband is away, God suddenly has a wide-open opportunity to help the wife develop her ability to deal with adversity and learn to cope with situations she is not comfortable in. Similarly, when the wife is away, the husband suddenly has to be both father and mother to the kids. That’s when health problems and school situations he doesn’t know how to deal with pop up.

God has set the stage. Now it’s up to us. We can resent the intrusion. We can fret and worry. We can dash about wildly looking for someone to help. (I have done all these!) Or we can recognize God’s hand in the problem situation and immediately talk to Him.

I often pray first thing in the morning, “Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that You and I together can’t handle.” This little prayer is on a plaque near my desk. It is based on James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV) God knows how to deal with every problem we can possibly encounter. Ask him, and He will give us the wisdom we need to deal with it effectively.

God’s purpose for us is not to give us nice, comfortable lives. Instead, He intends for us to grow and mature in our relationship with Him. He wants to make us holy, to make us like Himself. And that will only happen as we learn to turn to God for help in every irritation, adversity and problem. Over and over again.