Ten years ago, I painted a picture of farmers working in a rice field. Those farmers were very angry with me. They waved their knives and scolded me,
“We toil, sweat, and occasionally bleed, while working in the hot sun all day, and just to earn a meager living. You paint a picture of us, and make thousands!”
But I didn’t sell that painting. I donated it to a museum. Then yesterday, ten years later, the museum called me to tell me that they were using my painting to print a calendar. They wanted to send me a complimentary copy. I asked for one more, to give to my mother. They sent me four.
Ten years ago, I went out for dinner late at night, around 11:30 pm.
Afterwards, I went for a motorcycle ride.
Since my ex left me, I have gone back to my old habits of taking long regular motorcycle rides, especially late at night. I had lost my enthusiasm to take these rides since I got married, and I wondered why. But during these rides lately, I have come to see that these motorcycle rides are the behavior of a sexual predator, although I never realized this before. It is a kind of “prowling” that can entertain my masculinity and release my sexual tension.
I prayed while I was riding. I told God about how frustrated I have been with love, and with being a Christian, and how I’ve never been able to find any happiness in my life, even though my life is otherwise very good. I asked God to tell me exactly what my options were, and to make all the benefits and consequences of the choices very clear to me. I also asked God to tell me the situation in as simple words as could possibly be set forth, and to fill me in with the details later on, after I have been able to grasp what is going on with me.
Later, I sat on a beach in the South China Sea. I watched the moonlight shining across the waters, and smoked a Cuban cigar. Then, God started talking to me through my memories.
A cheating slut I used to date always put so much effort on using her social skills to wile and seduce men (mostly push-pull tactics), all to enhance the attraction and the experience of love, and I see now that it was so foolish of her, even though she always thought herself to be so smart.
My ex-wife used to ask me if I loved her (my ex, not the slut) on a regular basis. She foolishly pressed this issue until it erupted into an argument – every time – thus causing strain in our marriage. Since my ex made such an issue about this, I became confused about how important it was to “fall in love”, and the overall value of “being in love”. But now it is clear to me that I was right in thinking about love in Biblically described terms (1st Corinthians 13), as opposed to an emotional experience. But she thought she was so much smarter than that slut I dated before her. I thought they both had the same worldly concept of love, and according to that concept, the slut was actually wiser.
An ex-girlfriend (who is now married) once told me how foolish it was for my ex-wife to do that. I had to agree. It is foolishness to seek out a magical experience of love, and to question whether those close to us experience that love in the same manner towards us.
But as I sat there smoking my cigar and pondering these things, I began to see things in a totally new way, from this perspective of foolishness. Yes, falling in love is foolish. Chasing women is foolish. Smoking pipes and cigars is foolish. Abandoning my career in the Navy and coming to live in Asia was foolish. Youth is foolish. Painting pictures is foolish. Riding my motorcycle for hours after dark, with no particular place to go, is foolish. Eating large meals late at night is foolish. Admiring women with long hair and big breasts is foolish. In fact, most everything beautiful and joyful about life is indeed very foolish, although I had never really considered this until that day.
Then, I began to see myself very clearly. When I was very young, I had read King Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes about the value of wisdom in living a Godly life. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I saw a lot of criticism of foolish behavior, so I learned to think of Christian wisdom as a meaningful goal in life. From that time on, I had always made a basic assumption that foolishness is wrong, and foolishness is folly, and foolishness could not possibly lead me to anything good in life. Therefore, I had made it a principle in my life to live wisely.
But what I see now is that my devotion to living wisely had put me in a cage, rather than bringing me any freedom in the Lord. Clinging to wisdom had essentially cut me off from all things joyful and exciting in life, and I had never been able to identify this link until now. Over the past couple years, it seemed to me that it was God and Christianity, which was destroying my opportunities to find joy in life, which really didn’t make much sense to me. But now, I can see more clearly that it is my firm adherence to Christian wisdom that induces this horrible effect.
More specifically, I think it is actually my pride that makes me refuse to be foolish. Many Christians are too proud to do things that they know are foolish, especially if they think it is also wrong. It is strange for them to recognize their own pride, because they are so accustomed to focusing on the deeper issues of faith. Likewise, I am astonished to see my egocentric pride, because I have never come face to face with it in the past. I always thought I was so humble, and not a proud person at all. I thought I was too alone to be proud. I thought about how I am so willing to ask others for help, and how I am not afraid to be honest about my weaknesses, so how could I be proud? I guess I am just very different from most people. In fact, most everything about love and enjoying life is quite foolish and silly. I never thought that it would be foolish to avoid being foolish. But that is precisely the hole that I have fallen into.
Just like Oswald Chambers said,
“Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound. We sometimes refuse to be shallow, not out of our deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress other people with the fact that we are not shallow. This is a sure sign of spiritual pride. We must be careful, for this is how contempt for others is produced in our lives. And it causes us to be a walking rebuke to other people because they are more shallow than we are. Beware of posing as a profound person — God became a baby.
To be shallow is not a sign of being sinful, nor is shallowness an indication that there is no depth to your life at all— the ocean has a shore. Even the shallow things of life, such as eating and drinking, walking and talking, are ordained by God. These are all things our Lord did. He did them as the Son of God, and He said, “A disciple is not above his teacher…” (Matthew 10:24).
We are safeguarded by the shallow things of life. We have to live the surface, commonsense life in a commonsense way. Then when God gives us the deeper things, they are obviously separated from the shallow concerns. Never show the depth of your life to anyone but God. We are so nauseatingly serious, so desperately interested in our own character and reputation, we refuse to behave like Christians in the shallow concerns of life.
Make a determination to take no one seriously except God. You may find that the first person you must be the most critical with, as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.”
I think that was my problem. I took love and life too seriously, and so it was never enjoyable to me. I tried too hard to be a wise Christian, thinking that if I discovered something profound, it would bring me peace, joy and love. It’s true that it did take my mind off of my misery, and motivated me to do something more with myself. But pride was still lurking in my subconscious, unbeknownst to me.
I should have taken a clue from my friends who told me I was too serious most of time.
My married friends, Jeffrey and Shauna (who both hold Ph.D.’s), call each other “stupid” very often, just to have fun. Their life is full of jokes and laughter. But when my ex called me stupid, it was not funny at all. It was a disrespectful insult to be taken seriously, and she meant it to be that way. Why could I not find joy and acceptance, and have fun with my marriage, like my friends do?
After this, God told me the solution to being miserable:
“Do something foolish!”
I thought, “How can I do something foolish?” God told me that,
“To be wise, you need a very good teacher, and you have had some of the best teachers that there are, for everything you have ever studied. But to be foolish, you don’t need a teacher. No one needs to teach you how to be foolish. All you have to do is follow your heart and do what you feel.”
I thought about this for a few moments, and then God added,
“Now go be foolish, and use your wisdom to get the most joy out of your foolishness without being foolish!”
“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
After this, I felt that a great burden was being lifted off of me, at last. I felt that I finally understood something that I had been missing, and that I was free to enjoy my life now.
I had always believed that foolishness is folly, against the will of God, and could never bring anything good to my life. But actually, love is foolish, chasing women was foolish, smoking my pipe is foolish, living abroad was foolish… most everything that has been enjoyable about my life is indeed foolish. I never thought about this, but actually, it is a truth I could never face before. I had the impression that foolishness was shameful.
The answer to my question was in understanding that biblical wisdom is not a goal, it is a balance between extremes – balance is the most important aspect. The key point is to enjoy each moment and each person you love around you, and glorify God by doing so.
I rode home that night in a state of peaceful ecstasy. In essence, I had learned the freedom of foolishness.
“Stay hungry, Stay foolish” – Steve Jobs
Later, upon rereading Ecclesiastes, I saw that the wisdom of foolishness, along with the vanity and grief of wisdom, was right there in the Scriptures all along, yet, I could not comprehend it until now.