There once was a man on a long journey. He had been traveling several days when he came to a river. After studying it, the man realized the river was treacherous and he would not be able to cross it without being swept away by the currents. So he built himself a large raft from bamboo and vines. Once he had crossed safely to the other side, he was pleased with his cleverness. He thought to himself, “I worked hard on this great raft. It’d be a shame to just leave it here. I’ll carry it with me on the rest of my journey.” Here, student, is the question:

Can this man be called wise?

This seemingly simple Buddhist parable rewards continued contemplation. What does it mean to be wise? Often, we don’t know when to abandon an idea or a pattern of thinking. Like the man in the story, we fail to realize that what helps us through one stage of the journey can be a burden in the next. As a youth pastor, I have the sacred task of shepherding teens from the concrete faith of their childhoods to the more abstract faith of adulthood. Sometimes this process involves abandoning ways of thinking about God that used to bring security and comfort but are no longer as useful. While some truths are meant to be carried through life, other ideas are better left beside the river. Wisdom is found in a willingness to be challenged and grow. As disciples walking in the way of Jesus, we are called to have enough humility to accept that we may not have everything figured out and that where we are today is not necessarily where we may be tomorrow. Faithfulness is not stubbornly refusing to let go of our raft but, rather, following Christ wherever he leads.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

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