Tag Archives: intelligence

94. Intelligence (Empathy, Lent 35)

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I’ve always been very bright. It has, at times, been a quality that has made me feel very visible, or even odd, and certainly frustrated. I struggled to understand why other people couldn’t grasp what I was saying, was horribly bored at school, and found myself trying to think of shorter words for things (especially with boyfriends, who did not seem to like my brains very much).

Although it is a wonderful thing to have, it also made me seem older than I was and people would assume I was emotionally mature as well as intellectually clever, when actually this was not the case. And just because I was clever didn’t mean I was practical. I could write a great essay on physics, but fail to get the back off a plug.* Perhaps the worst thing of all was that cleverness became the one thing I could rely on, my one gift, the source of any and all pride. So when after university I got terribly ill and succumbed to brain fog, barely able to put two words together, unable to read or decipher signs, I struggled with my identity. Who was this daft, slow, mixed up aphasic? Well, she was me too.

And when I began to recover my clarity for short periods, and then God presented me with the task of writing, what should I begin to lean on again but my intelligence? It was bound to happen, and having had to live without it for so long I wasn’t going to give it up very easily. And yet, that is exactly what God asked me to do. I had to give him my one specialty. He didn’t want, it seemed, for me to write plots with more smarts than Billy, or to dream of the Booker Prize. He wanted me to write from the heart. I remember a prayer time vividly, where I had to hand my brains over. I metaphorically watched them crack off from me, the way ice falls from a glacier, and saw them drift off on a flow of water.

And because I did that, because I gave them up and let them go like he’d asked me too, he returned them to me. But just as it is when we give him our hearts, and they return renewed, so my intelligence seemed changed. It had an entirely new focus and character. It was like my cleverness was not about me anymore. Not about making me look good, or feel superior, or special, nor any of the things it had, perhaps understandably, meant to me before. Now it was like my mind was living for God as well as my heart. I feel much happier, more integrated about this. When I use my intelligence now, it is to aid my readers understand my meaning. If I use a big word, it’s because (and only because) it is the right word to use.

I look compassionately on my school girl self, desperate for praise and trying to scramble to stay at the top of the heap in something (Lord knows it was never going to be P.E.) with her big brains that didn’t know what to do with her or where to take her. She was only doing what the world told her she should. And the me of now can have compassion on my current self as well, especially when I am misunderstood, or folk think I am being wordy or precious. It’s okay to use my God-given brain, and it’s especially okay to use that God-given, given-back-to-God, God-re-given brain, for the things he had planned all along.

* This endearing (to others) and infuriating (to me) trait continues. I just had to ask my (also very bright) husband to help me take a new camera case off its cardboard mount. Failure took me ten minutes, success for him, five seconds.

text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 temporary photo copyright Oliver Postgate/BBC

39: Witless

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But the witless can no more become wise than a wild donkey’s colt can be born human.” Job 11:12 NIV

Here is a verse that seems rather hopeless. Change is not possible, then, nor education? But we need to look at who is speaking here, for it is not God. Time and time again we see the habit of prooftexting, a tool of the witless if ever there was one, when, solely in order to prove their point, a person lifts a verse out of context without thought or consideration. The Bible is a collection of holy books, alive by the working of the Holy Spirit, and yes, it is in many ways the Word of God. But it is also the history of humanity’s relationship with the Lord and so also contains our own falseness, stupidity and wickedness. This particular verse is spoken by Zophar, one of Job’s annoying, self-righteous friends.

More on the folly of his speech tomorrow. Zophar so good (sorry couldn’t resist that one). For now we are focussing on this verse which tells us that a leopard cannot change its spots, and a fool must always remain so. We might be tempted to say that under the Old Testament and its set in stone legalism, this was most likely believed. But how then did Solomon become more and more wise if we are born with such traits? And is a fool always a fool? And in any case, isn’t there a difference between intelligence and wisdom?

James tells us in his letter that if we don’t have wisdom it is because we haven’t asked for it. Solomon was asked by God what gift he wanted, and he chose wisdom, proving perhaps that it was something he already had. And as the rules of God’s kingdom go, when you have the capacity already for a spiritual richness, more and more can be given to you, if your motives are right and your heart belongs to the Lord. But we can also ask for and be granted things which we do not have at all in the earthly. And brainpower is rather different from understanding, if you ask me, as often the most intelligent people are the most likely to refute the existence of God. (More about my thoughts on this can be found on my Golden Apples blog, here )

Zophar would have us all predestined to our fates, unable to change or learn, and yet then goes on to proclaim the changes God could make in Job’s life if only he will repent. Seeing God work, we know that transformation is possible in everything. It can take a very long time. It can be painful. Did you know that a caterpillar in a cocoon or chrysalis has to totally dissolve in order to become a butterfly or moth, apart from its wings, which are already waiting inside? Sometimes it feels like God is turning us inside out. I can testify to that! But if we have given over ourselves in prayer, even our foolishness can be turned into wisdom. Prayer, relationship with God, is always the catalyst for change. We have already seen on this year’s blogging journey, that a drowning prophet can be rescued and in turn rescue a whole city, that a zealous religious persecutor can end up dying for the very church he wanted to destroy, and that the Lord delights in turning things upside down. We should rule nothing out with our small thinking. Any leopard who gives her spots to the Lord as part of her living sacrifice, may well end up stripy!

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile.com