A chemist, a physicist, and an economist were shipwrecked on a desert island. Fortunately the tide also washed in boxes of canned food from their now-sunken vessel. They stood to ponder their predicament: food so close, yet locked from them. After a time of pondering, the chemist suggested that they place the cans in the salt water. Over time the salt would corrode the tins, which they could then break open with their hands to eat. The physicist suggested that they pour sand continually on the tins, gradually eroding them until they opened. The economist, who had remained in thought during this conversation, finally spoke. “Let’s assume we have a can opener...”
Assumptions are wonderful things: they shape our response to any given situation. Often unspoken, it is these assumptions which most influence the decisions we make. It is our assumptions about people and circumstances that ultimately determine whether we are disappointed or encouraged by any particular response. Our assumption of what makes a person successful drives our own course in life. It is assumptions which keep us from seeing things as they are, rather than simply seeing what we expected to see.
What we assume about God is critical to our relationship with him. If we assume that God no longer speaks, we no longer listen. If we assume that God is quick to judge, we are afraid to approach in our times of failure. Assuming that following God only results in blessing and joy causes us to question more deeply when life takes its difficult turns.
A key step towards growth in faith is to discover and question our assumptions: to ask “What do I believe, and why do I believe it?”. It is a task similar to that of a night-watchman, who drives the suburbs checking doors. He tests them because he hopes to find them locked, but must investigate when they are not. As we turn the door-handles on our assumptions, we may indeed find many of them to hold true. But those which aren’t so secure, we need to look at more closely.
In times of decision-making, identifying, understanding and critiquing our assumptions is critical, as these assumptions might be obstacles to our ability to discover where it is that God might be leading. To merely assume that we are following God may be the most dangerous assumption of all.
October 21, 2001