My church is doing this new thing called “discovering yourself through pizza.” I know, it sounds kind of weird— we’re not even all new-agey or anything. But whatever, my mom loves it and she invited me to check it out with her. Because I’m such a generous and loving daughter, I went.
I was definitely not motivated by free pizza…..
I was motivated by free pizza.
As I was waiting for the spoils of my decision to arrive (in this case, the beautiful and spicy Thunderstruck pizza from The Rock), I chatted with the lady on my right.
“Do you want to know an interesting fact?” I said.
Let’s be real, I was going to say it whether she was interested or not. But lucky for me, or lucky for her, she looked up from her ranch-laced salad, lifted her eyebrows approximately a quarter-inch and gave me the go-ahead.
She nodded along and I continued excitedly: “Yeah, they did these studies and after only a few minutes of sitting or standing in high or low power positions, people’s testosterone and cortisol levels changed according to the position they took. The people who stood in the power position measured for having more confidence and less stress. Isn’t that fascinating?”
“Oh, how nice. TED, is that Christian?”
“Well, no, but I think there’s great benefit to…” is what I started to say until her disapproving head turned back to her salad and she made conversation with the woman across from her.
I remember sitting there with a dumber expression on my face than the moment when I took a look at my first linguistics test.
What’s wrong with TED? They’re the brightest and most brilliant leading thinkers in the world! So what if they’re not Christian?
I couldn’t wrap my brain around the judgement I just got dealt, and then I remembered that it wasn’t the first time I had felt shamed for being an academically minded woman in the church. Missionaries who have tried to convince me that God is more glorified when we cross the ocean for Him, but not when we cross town to our office. Young women who stare blankly at me when I say I want to do more than hold a baby. All the times I’ve had to add, “I like working with young girls, too,” at the end of telling someone what I’m passionate about.
I’m not supposed to want to be smart.
I could hear her now: “Susan, did you know your daughter is listening to secular podcasts? She even said she wanted to read that book by that atheist man Richard… Richard… oh, Richard something! Are you sure that university she’s attending is Christian?”
I’m confused. What’s wrong with being a lover of wisdom? I mean, if something is true, then that automatically makes it God’s truth, right? And if what we find, hear or read isn’t God’s truth, then aren’t we just better equipped to minister to the people who do believe it? Are we not commanded to be as innocent as doves but as clever as a snake? Paul used the familiar works of Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and Socrates when trying to make his Greek-influenced audience understand Christ, and didn’t he say to follow his example as he follows the example of Christ?
Multiple times, I’ve talked to someone in the church about my goals and dreams, and they’ve often responded with something like, “Oh, well you never know, maybe God will send a missionary man your way and you’ll fall madly in love with missions.”
What? I’m sorry, who said I wasn’t in love with missions? What if I just feel called to a different mission field? The leaders of this world need Jesus just as much as the needy in Africa if not even more so. Their ideas, beliefs and actions influence the masses. Are my dreams so trivial that I would let some cute missionary sway me from them? Should I believe in myself so little?
TED is where the world’s leading thinkers and doers come to share and spread ideas. You have to be a CEO, scientist, Ph.D. or profound discoverer just to apply to be in the audience during one of their events. Shouldn’t the church want people not just in the audience, but on the stage? We live in a world where Christians are being depicted more and more as uneducated mystics who can’t understand reason and logic. I want to combat that. I want to prove that logical people do believe in God and stand as a witness among sharks. It certainly can’t be easy to have a conversation with someone like Richard Dawkins, and I want to not only welcome that conversation but also be prepared to have it. I don’t think I could convince him otherwise, but I want to stand as evidence that believing in Christ does not require the suspension of reason. These people and their ideas are leading the world. We don’t have to follow where they lead, but shouldn’t we at least pay attention to where they’re going?
Is it not right for me to pursue the talents God has given me? Is it not right to want to thrive among the brilliant and give Him all the glory? When the Father crafted my hands, did He not know He put the fire to write and rewrite a thousand speeches? When He gave me eyes, is He not the one who instilled the vision for presentation? Did God give me a brain and only want me to use it for Bible studies and children’s ministry? Should I not desire to be a consultant or CEO or specialist or Ph.D. or any other kind of leader in this world that needs Jesus?
No, because Jesus needs my hands to be feeding the homeless on street corners and holding babies during the 11 o’clock service. He doesn’t want them presenting, teaching, acknowledging or meticulously assembling PowerPoints. No, because when Christ called us a body He meant for us only to be feet. He doesn’t want eyes or mouths or the detail-oriented fingertips.
Does God, the creator of all knowledge frown on my pursuit of wisdom?
No, I don’t think He does.
My pizza was delicious.