8:18

Not my thoughts

Not my thoughts

The problem isn’t just that we have small minds. 

It’s that we don’t realize it.

As I watch the growing polarization in this country, I’m deeply troubled by the parade of divisions: blue vs. red, rich vs. poor, white vs. black, compliance vs. defiance, church vs. state.  The list goes on.

What is even more worrying is the algorithm-driven stream of limited information fed to people via social media.  Most of us don’t realize how we are given more and more of what we want to read.  It’s how the system was designed.  And in satisfying our fundamental desire to be right in our own eyes, we inevitably create a THEM to contrast against US.

Not that there aren’t wrongs being done by people that should be called out.  It’s just that those wrongs, in this age of the boxed mind, are never done by US.

Into this fractured, finger-pointing world, God calls out:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55: 8-9)

I’ve always thought of this passage in isolation, God generally reminding us of his greatness.  But reading it in context, I see the “For” that initiates these famous verses.  It’s a cause and effect: verses 8-9 explain the preceding one.

Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.  (vs. 7)

What thoughts and ways of God are exceedingly high above us?  His willingness (and action) to forgive the wicked.  They are to leave behind their small-minded ways and turn to him.  He will freely pardon.  The Hebrew literally reads, “He will act multiplyingly in pardon.” (Motyer)

It is our limited thinking that wants the other side of any emotional disagreement to receive judgment fitting to their wrong-headedness.  God, however, is willing to pay the price himself.  To take the punishment upon himself through his beloved Son.

So, I’m out on a walk today.  Thinking about his high and holy thoughts, I look up to see a patch of blue peeking through the gray clouds.  It feels like an eye of heaven looking down on me.  And I feel my own smallness.  I sense the wickedness in my own spiritual DNA.  The problem isn’t just in THEM.  It’s in ME.

I think of writer/pastor Tim Keller’s often-used quote: “We’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.”

Those are high thoughts, indeed.  Even transforming.

Now what do I do with this box?

Father, forgive us.  For our self-deception.  For prizing being right over being compassionate.  Thank you for all you’ve done to pardon us.  Let your forgiveness change us and mold us to be more like our Savior.

Reader: What helps you to appreciate the greatness of God’s thoughts and ways?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.