I ALWAYS TELL young journalists that there’s no such thing as a stupid question—but that’s not entirely true. It’s not stupid if you don’t know the answer and that makes a difference. It is stupid if what you’re asking betrays that you are missing the real story.
Like the apocryphal trainee newspaper reporter who went out to interview an elderly lady who was about to have her first book, a collection of poems, published.
Him: So I believe the publication date is next month, correct? (Full marks for verifying what the publisher’s press release said.).
Her: Not anymore. It’s been put back.
Him: Oh. Why’s that? (Again, props for inquisitiveness).
Her: Because of the trial.
Her: Yes, the murder trial.
Him: Murder trial?
Her: Yes. I’ve been accused of murdering my late husband.
Him: Oh. So when will the book be published, then?
Sadly, I have my own real-life example of missing the plot from my days as a young reporter, when anti-apartheid protestors had massed outside an English sports stadium where the visiting South African rugby team was playing. The leader of the demonstration went inside for a while before coming out for an impromptu press conference.
Did I ask him what message he hoped the protest sent? No. I wanted to know what he thought about the game. Facepalm!
Sometimes we can be so focused on the facts that we miss the real story. We’re so caught up in the details that we fail to see the big picture.
This sort of exercise in missing the point isn’t limited to journalism. It also happens with Jesus.
There’s a classic example in John 5, where a man who has been crippled for almost forty years is miraculously healed by Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem.
This must have caused something of a commotion, but what do the Pharisees want to know?
“How did this amazing thing happen to you?” No, they demand to know: “Why was the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath, in contravention of the rules?” Duh.
Thankfully, there were older, wiser journalists in that back-in-the-day South-African-protest press corps who asked the right questions. I was able to tailgate on their experience.
I’ve needed the same kind of help from time to time in my faith journey. Namely, from people who have been able to remind me that it’s possible to get lost in the weeds—so fixated on doing the right thing that you lose sight of the real thing.
Have you ever got so lost in the fine print of faith that you’ve missed the living Word?
Photo by Alex E. Proimos on Foter.com/CC BY-NC