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A BLOG by Pastor Ken Rickett

“I understand.” No matter how these two words are expressed, their power is unique and empowering when shared with sincerity and compassion. “I understand.” No two words are more resented than when uttered by a knucklehead who has no inkling of the depths of one’s hurt and pain or when callously said as if to say, “let’s change the subject.”

“I understand.” Sometimes these words are said to say, “I get it.” In Geometry class, more than once I asked a second time for an explanation before I could say, “I understand.”

“I understand.” Sometimes these words are not said aloud, but they reflect the ability of an intuitive person to “just know” what is going on without having to be told. For example, a husband and wife are friends with another couple, and they get together several times a year, but one day the news comes that their married friends have separated. The wife is shocked and in disbelief, but the husband, an intuitive person, says, “Honey, where have you been? I knew this split was coming several months ago!”

“I understand.” “Or I don’t understand!” Hard-of-hearing folks grasp a few words (but not all words) but their minds process those words in a way that they make sense and they say to themselves, “I understand” and respond after that nanosecond pause while they process what they heard. Or they tell themselves, “I don’t understand” and respond by saying “I didn’t catch that!” As a person who lives in this hard of hearing world, we often evaluate in our minds, not whether we actually heard what was said, but whether we UNDERSTOOD what was said. Only then can we respond without embarrassment.

“I understand.” When it comes to very recent history, there is no such thing as having a full understanding of all the dynamics and forces that are driving our culture, our society and our government. My great uncle, Dr. J. Winston Pearce, several years ago after his retirement as a seminary professor, wrote the history of Campbell University, located in Buies Creek, NC where he decided to live after retirement. When he was writing the book back in the 1970s, I visited him over a weekend. He was telling me about composing that book, and he said, “In my contract with the University to write this book, I insisted that a clause be included that stated that I could not be held accountable for any interpretation or summary of the recent history of the University.” When I asked, “Why?” His response was one that I should have known since I held a degree in history, namely, “recent history is too fluid, and too many factors that are influencing the decisions of the university or its student body may not be identified for some time.” Sometimes, it is wise to recognize limits to our ability to fully understand modern dynamics!

Sometimes we yearn to declare “I understand” but we are bewildered! Case in point: the decline of membership and activity in congregations across most denominations or Christian groups. All the data and possibilities that could give us some insight is the subject for another time. It is one thing to identify various factors at play in this decline, but more importantly, the question “how do we reverse this pattern?” still begs for an answer. Understanding all the dynamics that has driven this decline in church membership and activity does not imply that immediate solutions are viable and relevant. To understand does not always point to the means by which obstacles are overcome. But the Church of Jesus Christ is a Spiritual Body, and the Spirit moves and acts in mysterious ways.

“I understand.” Have you ever heard these words. “God’s salvation is so simple that even a child can understand it?” Is it true? A child may understand the simple acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as a profession of faith, but there is no way a child understands the struggles and difficulties that lie ahead.

When it comes to matters of faith, we are “overstating it” when we say, “I understand…my faith!” AH! Our God is constantly revealing Self, and in spiritual growth, we sometimes get to the point where we say, “I used to think, (this or that) but I have come to a deeper understanding!” I served four different churches as a summer Youth Director working with teenagers while I was in college and the seminary. Some of these teens were struggling…not with school…they were struggling because some of them were coping with parental divorce, or the death of a grandparent, or the impact of a careless few seconds while driving a car, or the news of a terminal illness to some family member or another church member.

For the first time in their lives, they were asking questions about the “Goodness of God” or “How come God allows bad things to happen to someone who tries to do the right thing?” or “What happens after death?” Like many parents, the Church was “overprotective” of its youth, and at times, as a summer Youth

Director, I was told that “teens need to be taught right from wrong, but also they must enjoy life.” Being naive, I mostly agreed, which I regret. Now, I know better. Children need to sing “Jesus Loves Me” but teenagers know all too well that life’s experiences require a much, much, much, broader and deeper grasp of God’s Love. Either they get a more solid theology as teenagers (namely, the

understanding of the Person and Nature of God as revealed in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit) or we will experience a Church much like today’s…in which our God is too small to deal with the vast range of human experiences in their earthly life.

“I understand” When it comes to GOD, it is not so much WHAT we now understand about GOD, it is whether we understand that GOD wants us to learn much, much more about GOD’S presence and activity in this ol’ world!