Monday, January 11, 2010

Surrendering the Knowledge of Good & Evil

I'm realizing that I am a person who likes to know, really know, as much as an amateur can about whatever I'm undertaking. I am a person who likes books, workshops, classes, articles, talking with folks experienced in the field, asking questions, probing about the best methods and ideas and theories and books. Ad nauseum, at times.

I took this approach when I taught, when I became a parent, when I began volunteering with the kids at Ben's school. Now as we explore the possibility of adopting a dog, I find myself reading about various breeds, checking out each one's national website and organization, combing through books from the library about both breeds and training techniques, and calling the people I know who are not just dog lovers but dog experts--those raised with breeders, those in vet school, those utterly devoted to the well-being of their pets. If we do this, I want to be prepared before this canine even walks through the door so that we begin well and create a positive environment for everyone.

As I'm reading, I'm recognizing that, as with kids, anticipation is key, establishing precedent and routine is critical, and asserting a loving yet firm authority is paramount. It seems many problems can be prevented by making it clear, even in our very first hours together, who is alpha, how we roll, and what can be expected. This consistency paves the way for fun and affectionate years together.

I've come to the conclusion that most people want to do the right thing but simply don't know how. I can't say I know either, but I think this is why I'm driven to learn as much as I can to ensure I'm as informed as possible as I make these decisions that will impact the lives of my family for years.

I'm not sure whether this "knowing" is always a good thing, though. It's useful, certainly, to have realistic expectations of each developmental stage, to understand what is normal and what is not, to hear about potential problems and how to avoid or address them. But this knowledge is also weighty, carries great responsibility, creates pressure to not screw up. And with my Type-A, perfectionistic personality, this can translate into anxiety and over-concern and blowing innocent things out of proportion, which in the end may be as harmful as ignorance. There's a reason that the knowledge of good and evil is a curse.

For me, I still think having the information is better than walking into something blind, but it also helps to have my husband and some good friends remind me to relax and enjoy and have faith, not in myself and my abilities to do this job, but in God's ability to redeem whatever job I do. Even a great parent or master falls short, and I meet people everyday learning about grace and redemption and change through the foibles, whether malicious or not, of their parents.

No amount of reading can prevent me from making mistakes. No amount of knowledge can allow me to save my children or myself or anyone else from themselves, from life, from their own knowledge and fears and pride and insecurity. Ouch. That is hard to admit. Because the temptation of knowledge is to believe we can make ourselves like God, to believe that we can choose that which is good and right apart from God when in reality, apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Even the ability to choose the good is from Him.

And yet here I am so heartened, because I think of all the good people do in love around the world in every culture and nation, and I recognize that it is God at work, even in the places where people do not realize they know Him. Goodness exists. Love exists.

Well, I haven't yet figured out how to weed this desire for knowledge from myself, and I suppose it is not within my power to do so. So I'll keep reading, but I'll pray for the grace to surrender my knowledge to His love--for my kids, for our future dog, for the world.

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