“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Once upon a time, years ago, a churchgoing man in his thirties who had attended a discussion of a fairly straightforward passage in the Gospels told me afterward that he couldn’t understand it.  I thought he meant that he was puzzled about some specific point.  No, that wasn’t it.  Though intelligent, educated, and generally able to understand and communicate in speech and written text, he could make no sense of the passage whatsoever -- not a paragraph, not a sentence, not a phrase.  He told me afterward that he understood the words that it contained, but that they didn’t add up to any meaning.  It wasn’t that he disagreed with the passage, but that he couldn’t grasp it.  Not even the simplest explanation could reach him.  It was as though the words were on one side of a grating, and he were trapped on the other.

His inability to understand distressed him, though not so much as one might have expected.  Thinking that another approach might be helpful, I tried several other ways to convey the passage’s meaning.  No dice.  The English of the translation remained Greek to him.  He went on to tell me that he had the same problem whenever he tried reading the bible.  Not when he read other books, mind you.  Just this one.

I learned months later – you may call this unrelated, but I am not so sure – that certain aspects of his life were coming apart at the seams.

In retrospect, the only thing unusual about the man’s highly selective confusion concerning the things of God was that it was so extreme.  Milder cases are as common as fleas.  Perhaps a physician would suspect a brain lesion or other neurological problem.  That sort of thing is far beyond my competence to identify, but in the years since talking with the man I’ve discovered that there can be other causes.

Here’s one.  It is most unlikely for our lives to fall into disorder because we can’t understand the simplest guidance.  But no matter how intelligent we are, we often find the simplest guidance baffling because our lives are disordered, and this applies to divine guidance above all.