When a Zen master gets it, but many Christians don’t!
At last got round to watching Charlie Wilson’s War the other night, having had it on my list for ages. A mixed film – wasn’t 100% convinced that Tom Hanks could be a hard drinking, womanising southern politician on a supposedly moral crusade – but the script was sparkling. Well, one would expect nothing less from its writer, the master of political dialogue himself, Aaron Sorkin. There was lots in there to relish. But this little exchange was a brilliant gem amongst many.
Charlie Wilson is a Democrat congressman from Texas who in the 80s champions the cause of the Afghanistan Mujahideen in their war against Soviet invasion. Avrakotos is his man on the inside of the CIA (brilliantly realised by Seymour Hoffman).
Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman): There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “How wonderful! The boy got a horse.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “How terrible!” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his leg’s all messed up. And everybody in the village says, “How wonderful!”
Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks): Now the Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
There is a great patience about history in Eastern worldviews, even in the more secular, modernist ones. There is a legend about the Chinese Premier under Mao, Zhou Enlai, who was asked in the 1950s about the impact of the French Revolution (back in 1789). He supposedly replied with the classic response:
It’s too early to tell.
Well, even if it isn’t true, it both fits with him, his culture and reality. And if that is the case for human life and history in general, how much more for the cosmos in which God is at work? For God, 1000 years are like a day & 1 day is like 1000 years (2Pet 3:8) SO… no wonder:
- Abraham had to wait till he was about 75 before God lured him away from Ur (Gen 11:31-12:1)
- Joseph spent many years first as Potiphar’s slave and then in prison (incl 2 years after helping the chief cup-bearer – Gen 41:1)
- Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd before the time was right to lead God’s people (Exod 2:23-25, 7:7)
- The Period of Judges (i.e. from Joshua to Samuel) lasted ca 400 years before God was ‘ready’ to raise up a king.
- In Exile, Jeremiah tells the people that they should build homes and plant gardens in Babylon because they’re going to be there a while – a whole generation in fact (Jer 29:5ff) – in fact, they were to pray for the prosperity, not of Jerusalem, but BABYLON! (Jer 29:7-8) Patience was the order of the day.
- After Nehemiah, it would be another 450 years or so before John the Baptist hit the religion scene!
We may think that 2000 years is a long time. But then of course, the period between us and Jesus is almost identical to the period it took God to prepare the world for Jesus from first announcing his covenant promises to Abraham.
Amidst our instant gratification obsessions, our culture has a LOT to learn about patience (and I’m referring to our Christian culture there). And, of course, I speak entirely for myself in that…