I am not a word nerd by any stretch, but I do like to think about words, their meanings and where they came from. (grammar also isn’t a big hangup for me, obvi, really.)
I was thinking the other day about the phrase “of course” and what it means to us. We use it when we say something that should be obvious and taken as common knowledge. I’m not a Caucasian person, of course. I am short, of course. Of course you don’t look fat in that dress. You get what I’m saying.
The saying comes from this understanding that what is being said is accepted, ordinary procedure, the right, commonly known path of the conversation at hand. “Of course it is” can also be interpreted as “well, duh, you dummy.”
The problem, of course, is that we don’t all have the same path. It’s a postmodern problem. We question everything. We don’t have a “common” knowledge or one-size-fits-all rhetoric any more. And before you start thinking that’s a bad thing, well, you’re already getting off course.
To some degree, the journey to the conclusion is more important than the conclusion itself. When you don’t agree with someone, it isn’t a matter of you saying you’re wrong, I’m right. It’s a matter of laying out the path, leading someone down the course. But you have to start from where they start, and point them in the direction. Lead them if they allow you to, but it’s never going to start from where you are or at the destination.
People are fairly predictable. Many times we can guess at where someone we know will stand on certain issues or preferences. In some ways our prejudicial thinking turns everyone into an “of course” for us. But what if we tried to see people’s opinions and beliefs first as valid and second as something to journey through? What if we stepped into their line of thinking and took a look around?
If you’ve ever taken a debate class you probably had the exercise of having to take a position that was the exact opposite of your own and defend it. It’s a good practice. We do well to remember that my “of course” is not your “of course.” Humanity has such a very wide range of experiences and ideologies and if we haven’t learned in this post-postmodern era that the journey is important, we have missed out on all we have come to understand about ourselves and God’s working in us. God’s “of course” wasn’t always my “of course.” It took a journey and continues to be one.
Even Jesus himself took the time to explain, to nurture and beckon along the way, to push and prod and nudge. He spoke and said let him who has ears, and left it at that. He knew they’ll get it. He knew some would get it immediately, some would need to sift and stew. Still others had a long journey ahead, while others may arrive without even realizing it. Throughout the Bible we see journeys, flawed, miserable wretched people who just don’t “get it” and yet, God’s graciousness led them down the course they needed to take to arrive. And it isn’t one arrival, one destination, but many stops along life’s way, many a-ha! moments, until that blessed day we get to go home.
Until then, we walk. We plod along some days and skip merrily other days. Be careful to not trample those along the way. Be cautious in your dealings with others. Hold their hands if you get a chance to. Give directions when asked. Tell them about points of interest you have seen on your journey. Show them the signs and wonders you have known deep in your soul. When they’re lost and off course, ask where they’ve been and where they’re going. Tell them a better way, one with the best payoff.
And DO leave a trace. “Follow me as I follow Christ.”