Indeed, who would ever believe it?
Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?
Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
We usually don’t think that something great can come from something insignificant. We support our claim with personal experiences, statistics, and all manner of other rationalizing methods. Something special can’t come from something that is plain.
The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes is considered to be one of the fathers of the philosophies of cynicism and skepticism. Diogenes used his daily wanderings about the town square as a commentary on life. He would walk about during the daylight with a lit lamp in hand. When people would ask what he was doing, he would respond, “I am simply looking for an honest man.” He claimed that all he could find among men were worthless brutes and scoundrels. And so he lived his life – never finding an honest person, not desiring to appreciate the comforts of a home (he lived off and on in a huge jar, of sorts), breaking the rules of societal convention, and generally making a mockery of customs and traditions. At the time of Diogenes’ death, the Corinthians erected in his memory a marble dog – some stories say that he had died of an infected dog bite. The origin of the English word cynic comes from the Greek word kunikos that comes with the meaning “dog-like.” Diogenes was remembered with the likeness of a dog. (Perhaps he would have approved.)
There is a t-shirt out there that you can purchase. It says, “I’m not cynical but I am experienced.“ I wonder how many of us actually deep down somewhat agree with this take on life? I know I do sometimes.
One of the big problems with always being skeptical and cynical is that we aren’t giving God any room to move. We tie him down. We are unwilling to let him go about his business in his mysterious ways. We don’t want to watch him do amazing and miraculous things right in front of our own eyes. We exclude the possibility of mighty and wonderful things happening in our lives and in the lives of our families and friends. Being consistently skeptical and cynical about life is a lot like being the proverbial wet blanket that’s constantly used to beat out an otherwise warming and comfortable fire. A constant litany of rhetorical questions can lead one to madness – physical and spiritual. And you won’t have many friends, either.
Perhaps the wisest one is the one who can look at what is a boring, plain, and simple thing and see in it inherent beauty, potential, and magnificence. The people I know who I like to be with and who encourage me are people of anticipation – they are always thinking of what can be with just a little bit of molding and shaping. They are positive and hopeful. Seeing something ordinary gives them a blank canvas upon which they can paint dreams, intentions, and hopes. They are rarely surprised when something amazing happens. After all, they will say, it is what was expected.
God might surprise us by bringing to us Jesus from something simple and ordinary. We can discuss and pontificate on this as much as we care. But more importantly – and this is the key message – God is able to take plain, simple, and ordinary people like you and me and masterfully paint us into beautiful, amazing, and magnificent creatures.
God harbors no cynicism when it comes to you and me. He fully expects our ordinary lives to blossom into very beautiful things.