Syretia felt confused as she looked out at the crowded room. The people, calling out a variety of conflicting information just moments before, now sat restlessly in the lined up chairs, all facing her in expectation. Wanting to leave the stage, but knowing she couldn’t yet, Syretia instead allowed her mind to wander back to how she got there.
It seemed to be a lifetime ago when she had been happily ignorant of the rest of the world as she happily went about her own daily life in her small town. She knew important decisions and bitter debates were happening in every country, but none of that seemed to touch her personally, and so she took care of her ever-changing garden. Sometimes the roses seemed to dominate the garden, their sweet scents mingling to create a beautifully unique aroma. Sometimes it was the sunflowers in bloom that demanded her attention. Their majestically large sunny faces filled her heart with wonder. How could any flower be that big? Other times, it was the small Creeping Phlox with its multitude of tiny purple, blue, and pink flowers that caught her attention. Whether on her hands and knees studying the tiny petals up close, or gazing at the colorful carpet from a distance, those tiny blooms were impressive.
She spent hours each day watering, weeding, and talking to her beloved flowers. She didn’t mind the hard work because the bountiful reward was so much greater than the effort she put into maintaining her garden. And she was delighted by how it brought smiles to the faces of the people who walked or drove by each day.
And then one day that all changed.
Syretia had watched the approach of the storm with excitement. She loved watching lightning dance in the sky and listening to the thunder boom their applause. She loved watching the raindrops race each other down her window. And she loved the freshness a good storm left behind after cleaning the air.
But this was a storm like no other. Strong winds blew in even stronger gusts, uprooting trees and snapping branches. Garbage cans, plastic lawn chairs, loosened shingles, and cardboard boxes rushed down the street as if running from something huge and frightening. Lightning flashed like strobe lights, their zig zagging lines penetrating the sky in every direction. The incredible roar of the pelting rain hitting cars, sidewalks, and rooftops was so loud it almost drowned out the constantly exploding thunder.
Syretia hid in her closet, and prayed that the storm would pass quickly without causing great damage. She prayed for her garden, and for those of her neighbors. She prayed for people who were hiding in their own closets, and for those who didn’t have closets to hide in. She prayed for the cowering animals outside, seeking in vain for shelter, and she prayed for inside animals, trembling in fear in the arms of their owners.
Eventually the winds abated, the rain lightened, and the sound of thunder faded away. Syretia cautiously emerged from her closet. The house appeared to have escaped damage. Sighing with relief, Syretia went to the window and gasped. He garden lay in ruins. The strong winds had broken the sunflower stalks. The heavy rain had washed the roses from their stems. And the Phlox lay drowning under water that had overflowed the street. She wanted to rush outside, but until the flood went down, it would be impossible to do anything in her beloved garden.
While waiting for her garden to dry, Syretia heard of a man who was speaking in the town hall about ways to salvage and build back devastated gardens. Curious, and needing the information for her own garden, she walked eleven blocks through ankle deep water for the opportunity to learn and to ask him questions. She wasn’t the only one. By the time she got there, the room was in chaos. Most people were sitting in the chairs facing the stage in rows, but many were moving about the room. All were yelling, arguing, name calling, and criticizing each other as the man stood on stage trying to speak.
Syretia tried to make sense of what she heard as she walked down the left side of the chairs.
“Everyone needs to use the RBG Drying Agent. The liquid form of RBG will save plants still under water. By injecting it into the stem, it will keep the roots from rotting.”
“That’s experimental. No one really knows the long-term effect that a drying agent will have on the roots.”
“Nonsense. Thousands of plants were tested, and all turned out fine.”
“I heard the roots got soft anyway so it doesn’t really make a difference whether it’s used or not.”
“That’s not true. Although some roots did get soft, they weren’t as soft as they would have been without the RBG. Besides, they returned to normal after a few weeks and are doing great.”
“Well, you can inject your plants, but mine will be fine without it. Even if they get a little root rot, it won’t be bad enough for permanent damage.”
“Your recklessness is going to kill all our gardens. It’s been proven that RBG prevents the spread of root rot to plants not yet affected. By not treating your plants, you put everyone else’s plants at risk.”
“How do you know which plants will have root rot and which don’t? Or how bad it will get? Most of the time plants can survive under water for short periods without much if any damage. You’re succumbing to the fear planted by false advertising. Of course the RBG manufacturers want you to use their product. They are making millions of dollars, and they are using fear to control people so they can make more. First it was one injection, but soon it will be regular injections to keep the rot from returning. You just wait and see.”
“You’re stupid for believing that hogwash. If every plant got RBG now, root rot would be eliminated and there would be no need for further treatment. Your uncaring attitude is going to make this disaster last forever.”
Tired of the heated exchange that was going nowhere, Syretia moved on to different group. She wanted to find out facts, not opinions. Maybe this new group would provide more substance.
“You have to wear rubber gloves when you’re in your garden, not those cloth ones.”
“Rubber gloves are too thick. They make it harder to do things. I prefer to use my bare hands.”
“But everyone knows the storm pulled most of the positive protons from the earth leaving an unbalanced number of negative electrons. By walking you become negatively charged which could result in a shock when you touch your plants.
“That’s just a theory. I don’t wear gloves in my garden or anywhere else and I haven’t been shocked. Nope. I prefer living my life as normal as possible.”
“How selfish of you! The gloves are not just for you. They are also to keep the plants safe. Apparently you don’t care how many plants you shock by not wearing them!”
“Spoken by an ignorant fool! Regular rubber gloves – the kind we have access to – don’t protect anything.”
“Besides it’s not that bad. Most plants never feel any shocks. Those that do, get over it just fine. And once a plant’s been shocked, its charge becomes balanced and shocking is no longer a problem. That’s going to happen to all my plants eventually.”
“Even someone as stupid as you must have heard the numbers. Plants everywhere are dying from these shocks.”
“That’s because weak root systems can’t handle severe shocks. And relatively speaking, that only includes only a small percentage of my garden.”
“It’s not just those with weak roots. Lots of other plants are dying too. I hope you can sleep at night knowing how many flowers you’re killing by refusing to wear your gloves.
“I’m not killing anything. Plants that are at risk are the ones that need the protection. Not the whole garden. And just so you know, I do wear gloves when around those. If you want to wear gloves, go for it. Just don’t require everyone to do what you do. Or judge those who think differently than you.”
“Your incredibly self-centeredness is astounding…”
Syretia had heard enough. She walked across the front of the room hoping to find discussions that were more objective on the other side. She didn’t. What she heard were opinions, accusations of misinformation, lies, and judgments just as she had heard on the first side. This side, though, were talking about the man on the stage, and about the way he got there. Some thought he had been asked, others thought he had bullied his way there. Syretia didn’t know but was curious. How HAD the man gotten to be the lone figure on the stage?
Suddenly there was a lot of commotion as people moved from one place to another, yelling out opinions and seeking those who shared them. Syretia found herself being squeezed closer and closer to the steps leading to the stage as people pushed past her. To escape, she climbed the half dozen steps and found herself face to face with the man. He motioned to the crowd. “Your turn,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge,” and then disappeared down the steps as someone appeared from behind the curtain, took her arm, and guided her to the front with the words, “You want to save your garden? Don’t leave until you get to the truth,” before disappearing behind the curtain again.
Confused, Syretia stared out at the crowd. She watched as they quickly took whichever seat was closest. The people, calling out a variety of conflicting information just moments before, now sat restlessly in their chairs, all facing her in expectation. She knew what she chose to believe was going to affect how she worked in her garden, and maybe even influence others who were also searching for truth about their gardens. “But how do I get to the truth? How can I know who’s telling the truth?” she asked under her breath. “They are all so sure of themselves.”
And then she had it.
“It’s not like a buffet where I pick and choose the most appealing to put on my plate. It’s not about who’s the loudest or how often it’s repeated. And it’s not about loyalty to favored people. It’s like pulling weeds – and that’s done through asking questions.”
Questions like… Why do you believe what you believe? Where did you get your information? Did you check to make sure it was totally correct before sharing it? Does it make sense when compared to other facts? Are there hidden motives and agendas that would cause what you say to become suspect? How accurate have you been on other things you’ve said? Are you trying to manipulate me by using fear, guilt, or threats? Will what you say match what I find when I research it?
Confident now, Syretia smiled. “I have some questions for you.”
In this time when many falsehoods, misinformation, and outright lies are being circulated causing conflict and division, it’s good to remember what the Bible has to say about seeking wisdom and truth, and about foolishness.
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Proverbs 15:14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 18:15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Proverbs 2:1-22 The Value of Wisdom
2 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.
16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden[a] woman,
from the adulteress[b] with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
18 for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed;[c]
19 none who go to her come back,
nor do they regain the paths of life.
20 So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.