Confession is a powerful, and important, part of Christian spiritual formation. So today, before you all, I confess… I am a nerd. I don’t mean one of those cutesy, just-socially-awkward-enough-to-be-adorable type of nerds (a la The Big Bang Theory). No, I am at the level of nerdiness where I adore a good Renaissance festival, my “celebrities” are published scholars, and I was right in the middle of the costumed throng at the opening night of all three Lord of the Rings movies (I actually went as Captain Hook to the third movie, just to switch things up). Yes, my nerd-aura radiates from me like a sweetly-scented cologne, and I am unashamed… but wait, there’s more.
All things nerd-like pale before the badge of honor that comes with Star Wars fandom. So it was that I discovered myself, complete with a sleeping bag and food-and-beverage stocked cooler, camping out in the parking lot with a friend the night before Star Wars Episode I tickets went on sale. I was among the first purchasers, and I am fairly certain that I still have the ticket stub around here somewhere. While some people may look to Oprah as their celebrity sage, I appeal to Yoda as my guru of wisdom. His insight is often compact, tightly focused, and phrased in a manner just awkward enough to stick in your memory. Take a walk with me, and let us soak for a moment in the soundbite sensibility of the tiny green Jedi master.
Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. – Yoda, Empire Strikes Back
How often do we judge our capacity to be effective in the Kingdom by our own limited skill sets? I love when Peter and John stand before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 4, and give testimony to who Jesus was and what was done to him… to the very high priests that condemned Jesus to death in the first place. The response? Annas and Caiaphas were shocked, noting that Peter and John were ignorant, uneducated folk, yet spoke with a boldness and clarity that could only have come from their time with Jesus. They were dumbfounded, and Peter and John walked away unscathed. We often forget that it is in our weakness He is made strong, that He chooses to place His Spirit in ‘jars of clay.’ It is precisely because we are small that God is shown to be great. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31
Control, control, you must learn control! – Yoda, to Luke Skywalker
Self-control is a staple sign of the transformation of the inner life. This is why the spiritual disciplines become so important… they train us to develop patterns of holiness during the easy times, so that these become our default behaviors in the difficult times. A central mantra in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that “you do not rise to the level of your expectations, you fall to the level of your training.” So it is in the spiritual life. “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27
Great warrior, hmm? Wars not make one great. – Yoda, Empire Strikes Back
It is so easy to become focused on winning, on being right, on coming out the victor. Yet, Yoda reminds us that it is not in conflict that greatness is revealed. Some of the greatest forces of change in history were pacifists – Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., even Jesus Himself. While there are, unfortunately, times where defense becomes the only recourse, the true sign of greatness is in one’s ability to find the other path. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” – Matthew 26:52
[Luke] I don’t believe it! [Yoda] That is why you fail. – Yoda, after lifting the X-Wing from the bog
Faith is the staple of the Christian life. This is not a blind faith, or a faith requiring intellectual abandonment, but it is the capacity to put one’s trust in things unseen. Some things are beyond the range of our senses, and it is in our ability to encounter that “reality beyond the senses” which offers power, hope, and beauty to the human experience. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Truly wonderful the mind of a child is. – Yoda, Attack of the Clones
There is a mystery and splendor which children are so easily able to lay hold of, but that we distance ourselves from as adults. Children still cling to their curiosity, they marvel at things we take for granted, they can see beauty in the mundane, and their simplicity often speaks with a wisdom which pierces through our adult complexity. The ability to adopt the eyes of a child is one of the secrets to reclaiming that sense of splendor and awe in human living. “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” – Matthew 19:7
Thank you, Yoda. I honor you.
What pieces of wisdom have you picked up from unlikely sources?