Bible teachings show there’s hope for the knowledge-challenged

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Grace Notes: Nancy Kennedy

I hope this confession will surprise you, although it probably won’t, but the truth is, I’m not very smart.

When I was a kid I was a lot smarter, and when I was a teenager I knew everything. But now that I’m in my 50s I realize that I’m not all that smart.

For example, put the word “municipal” in front of a word or phrase and my eyes glaze over. When people talk about municipal budgets or bond issues or use contract or government document language, I think to myself, “I know these words are all English, but to me it sounds like blahdibbity blah blah.”

I knew a kid once, a skateboarder, who was telling me how an “ollie” works. (That’s when skaters jump and their feet stay on the board as they’re up in the air.)

The kid was explaining the physics of it, how it was possible.

“Blahdibbity blah blah,” he said.

I was extremely impressed by the vast knowledge of a 15-year-old. Today he’s an architect in California.

Now, when I say I’m not very smart, I’m not saying that I think I’m stupid. I do know some stuff; it’s just limited — enough to get by.

I know that if you leave the front door open when the a/c is on in the house, you “waste BTUs.” I know that a BTU is a British Thermal Unit, but I don’t know what it does or how or why it and its buddies get wasted when the door is open.

My husband, however, does know all about BTUs, probably more than any human being ought to know.

I know not to mix ammonia and bleach and to check the “use by” date on the milk before putting it in my coffee. I know pop culture and I know theology and I know how to put words and sentences together, and I suppose I know some other stuff that I can’t think of right now but may remember later.

Lest you think I’m feeling sorry for myself, that’s not it. In fact, I think it’s a good thing to know what you don’t know, to know your limitations and your weaknesses.

Several weeks ago, my pastor admitted a weakness. He said he had agreed to teach a bunch of seminary students about preaching, which he agonized over for nearly a year. He said he felt inadequate, that he didn’t know how to teach about preaching because he didn’t know how to do it; he just does it.

He knows God has called him to preach, and every week he begs God not to let him screw things up so badly that it can’t be fixed.

My pastor is a tremendously gifted preacher, and I love how he admitted his insecurity. It made Jesus shine through him.

That’s the paradox of the Christian faith. The kingdom of God is not made up of brilliant superstars. Oh sure, we’ve got a few big names, but not many. Mostly we are average, broken, weak, needy and insecure. Some of us are prone toward arrogance and self-righteousness; some of us are bitter and angry.

All of us are bent toward sin in all its various forms.

We all have pain and weakness, shortcomings, handicaps and faults. We are blind, deaf and dumb — and some of us are not very smart.

We are all fallibly human — and it’s a gift when we know it.

The apostle Paul had an unnamed “thorn in the flesh” that he begged God to take away, but God didn’t. Instead, he told Paul, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.”

He told Paul that his strength showed up best in weakness.

“Once I heard that,” Paul wrote, “I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.”

He concluded that, because of Christ’s power working in and through his people, when we are weak we are actually quite strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-14, The Message and my paraphrase).

As long as I know what Paul knew, and as long as I know that God is for me and not against me, that it’s at my points of weakness that he meets me and loves me and gives me his strength — even if that’s all that I know, then the blahdibbity blah blah that I don’t know doesn’t matter all that much.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.