Some of you may be familiar with the famous (or infamous) Bob Wiley introduction: “Maybe I should start. I. Have problems.” I imagine we can all identify to some extent or other with the self-conception those last three words imply. It’s funny to me to think about just how much of the rest of that movie focuses on the question of problems: What are the real problems here? And even more so, who is the one that has them?
I’ve really become aware this year of how easy it is for us to misidentify our own problems. Another way of saying this is that we often insist on asking the wrong questions. Humanities scholars, for instance, find it easy to come to a text with questions that they want answered, philosophical or sociological problems that they want the text to solve. Quite often, however, the author never intended his text as an answer to those particular questions. This dissonance often leaves the resulting “scholarly interpretation” completely skewed.
In my personal life as well, I see my own persistent tendency to misidentify my weaknesses. Often, the area in my life that I am most concerned about neglecting is the one to which I actually devote the most care and energy—at the expense of various other areas of my life about which, not surprisingly, I tend to forget. I worry about being blunt and uncaring in my conversations with friends, when in reality my tendency is to be too concerned about what others might think were I to say what I am really thinking.
It’s certainly important to watch for and identify the sorts of “problems” that we each find ourselves repeatedly running into. We all have sets of ungodly tendencies that we must always be on guard against. Yet I think it is dangerous to settle into a rut of thinking we have figured out all our “issues,” and that if we just avoid those in future, “we’re good.” A complacency about having figured out our own weaknesses could potentially be as dangerous as thinking that we have none in the first place.
All this to say, let’s continue to question our assumptions about what our “problems” really are. Let’s continue to help one another identify different areas of our lives that may not yet be pleasing to our Lord. Above all, let’s not hide from our real problems by dressing up in the costume of “problems” that aren’t really at issue, at least in any given set of times and circumstances.