“If you know what a man’s doing, get in front of him; but if you want to guess what he’s doing, keep behind him. Stray when he strays; stop when he stops; travel as slowly as he. Then you may see what he saw and may act as he acted.”
Wise words spoken by the character Valentin in G.K. Chesterton’s novel The Complete Father Brown Mysteries. He is tracking a notorious thief, Flambeau, and explaining to two policemen why he chose to track the thief in a bus instead of in a much faster taxi.
Aristide Valentin is Chief of the Paris Police, but in this particular thief-chasing caper, he didn’t have any clue where to look. He was stuck in what he called the “naked state of nescience.” I like how he is so articulate about his lack of knowledge – I guess sometimes we need to sound impressive and confident even about our ignorance. I’m most interested, though, in Valentin’s method in chasing the thief once he realizes how little he knows.
His method? “If you want to guess what he’s doing, keep behind him.”
I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus and I think I’ll take a cue from Valentin on this one.
I’m not about to propose I know enough of what Jesus is doing to get in front of Him, but I’ll confess I’ve done it before. I’ve run ahead, made plans, entertained assumptions and arrived at conclusions. The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I think Valentin’s tracking tactic is the way to understand my Savior.
Because I seem to always be in the naked state of nescience when it comes to doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. So, in my searching today, I will remember:
Keep behind him.
Travel as slowly as He.
See what He sees so I can act as He would act.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
4 thoughts on “the naked state of nescience”
Really good insight and advice. Who of us hasn’t tried to get ahead of God? Thanks for sharing this.
“Who of us hasn’t tried?”
Such a good point! Thanks 🙂
Gotta love Chesterton. 🙂
Agreed. No way around it – his fiction is truly a delight!