“I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.”Proverbs 30:2-3
Agur writes these words in what is known as one of the “Wisdom” books of the Bible, perhaps the best known of them: the Proverbs. Yet his words declare, in the penultimate chapter of the book, that he doesn’t know anything! The study of learning reveals 4 levels of learning:
1. Unconscious Incompetence – we don’t know that we don’t know. At this level, we often think we know everything, but the truth is we really don’t know anything!
2. Conscious Incompetence – we know that we don’t know. This is where Agur is. And truly, this is where learning begins.
3. Conscious Competence – if we try, if we focus, we can actually accomplish something based on what we have learned. But it requires conscious effort to pull it off.
4. Unconscious Competence – this is the level at which we can do something without really even thinking about it. We’ve practiced so much, and prepared for so long, that we enter what some call a state of ‘flow,’ and make difficult things look easy. But they aren’t easy, we’ve just worked hard to get to this point.
After almost an entire book of Wisdom based on the premise that “Fear the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” it is ironic that Agur openly states that he has not learned wisdom, not does he have knowledge of the Holy One. Does this mean he hasn’t paid any attention to the first 29 chapters? Or does it mean that he has reached level 2 of learning, and realizes how much he doesn’t know, how much he doesn’t understand, how much he still has to learn. I feel that way sometimes when it comes to understanding God in this world. I’ve studied the Bible and tried to apply it, personally and professionally, for over 20 years. But so often I echo the words found here in Proverbs 30:2-3. God is so much bigger and better than I have ever imagined. One philosopher likened the study of God to a child scooping up a cupful of water from the ocean, taking it back to shore, and using it to study the sea. God is simply too big for us to comprehend. Yet God invites us to make progress on the journey, beginning with the fear of the LORD, progressing towards knowing God. If I’ve learned one thing, it is that I can’t put God in a box. As much as I try to know and understand God, there is much that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I know more now than I used to, but I am far from where I hope to be in my pursuit of knowledge of the Holy One. Are you making progress on your own journey?