Thinking

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change…and growing up…and moving on. Senior year is one of those times when you really start to evaluate your life in all of its positive and negative lights. And you think, “What have I done with the 17 years that I’ve been alive? What opportunities have I embraced, and which ones have I bypassed? How do I move forward?”

Suddenly, you have to make important decisions almost all by yourself, and your to-do list expands exponentially to include tasks that will change the course of your life.

How in the world am I supposed to navigate this whirlwind that people call “being an adult”?

First of all, stop stark still, right in the middle of your tracks. Yes, you might have to cling to the doorpost to avoid being borne away by the wind billowing about your ears, but you’ll find that once you grab on, it will grow easier to hold your grip. Close your eyes and pray. Discard that spiritual checklist that you keep in the back of your consciousness and take time to rest in His presence. And suddenly you’ll realize that no matter what happens this year (or any other), He will never allow you to be crushed by the whirlwind of jobs and school and relationships and decision-making.

Secondly, allow yourself room to make mistakes. As a perfectionist, I have a very high standard for myself, but I need to realize that I will inevitably make some bad decisions in life because I’m human. Don’t be paralyzed by all the what-ifs. When you fail, shake yourself, take courage, and move on.

And finally, don’t ever allow yourself to lose your childishness, even in the midst of all this adult jargon. Responsibility does not override creativity, and practicality does not negate imagination. If you become so consumed in filling out job applications, checking off your task list, and spending hours on research projects, you will forget what sunshine tastes like. You’ll forget how vibrant a dew-speckled rose is. You’ll lose the ability to interpret the birdsong filling the air with vernal hues. And by losing your sense of  wonder, you begin to lose sight of eternity and immortality.

In his “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” Wordsworth cries,

“Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind…”

Don’t forget that you are young yet, and that humans were created as much to play and rejoice as to work and mourn. Explore, create, love, think, feel…

And don’t let the world abash your optimism.

 

 

 

 

Cadence

Rhythm. Harmony. Music. Such is the cadence of life. Have you stopped to listen to that song, rising up beyond the farthest reaches of the sunset sky? But even more importantly, have you stopped to listened to its Composer?

Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges that we face is the ability to separate the blessing from the Blesser, the endowment from the Endower. How easy it is to get swept up in that little hand thrust confidingly in yours; that childish, dimpled face smiling at you from beneath sparkling eyes; those darling little flowers springing up in the newly-awakening garden, and get distracted with the wonder of it all. I hope you won’t misunderstand me, for it is perfectly right and good to bask in the beauty of this experience we call life. But let us not forget that other side – that ominous, tragic side.

Suffering. Even as I right this, millions of people trudge on wearily, day after day, with no hope and no idea of the death into which they are willingly be plunged. The cadence of death.

Are we so swept up with all the blessings God has given that we forget this battlefield on which we stand? Life is serious, my friends. We were not born to merely smile on all of humanity in a general state of beneficent approval (all the while knowing how very much they will rue such fickle “love” when they stand before an Almighty God) and throw up our hands passively with the excuse that “it’s their decision.” The bondage of tolerance is that society blurs (if not obliterates) the line between good and evil and values approval above truth. If we truly wish to love, we must not stand idly by while others steadily tread the path of despair and destruction, spewing out our insincere encomiums all the way. As Bob Hostetler and Josh McDowell explain in their article “Silenced by Tolerance,”

Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will love you even when your behavior offends me.”

Tolerance says, “You must agree with me.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth, because the truth will set you free.”

Tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because you are worth the risk.”

Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.

In my opinion, “tolerance” is one of the most abused words in the English language. Honestly, if tolerance means letting people commit spiritual suicide and then clapping while they yield up their souls to the Enemy, all the while tucking away the message of life that we bear for the sake of not “offending” anyone, then I hope that we might become the most intolerant human beings on the planet.

Of course, I am speaking as much to myself as to any of you. Speaking honestly, societal pressure often triumphs over the gentle pressure of conscience. But through God’s strength, we can catch a sense of that grand cosmological scheme unfolding right before our eyes. That overarching plan, that glorious truth – the one that was instituted before the creation of the world…

 

 

Breathe

The assignments are piled up. There’s that essay due at the end of the month that’s casting a dark shadow over your consciousness; you attempt to push it to the recesses of your mind. You know you could be studying right now, or getting started on that pamphlet you have to read…and then there’s that presentation you have to work on…

No. Stop. Breathe.

And then you suddenly realize that by the time you finally take a break, night has already fallen, and you have lost the opportunity to bask in the gently falling snow that covers the barren earth with its soothing cadence. That opportunity has vanished; it’s gone. You’ve lost it. “There will be other snows,” you remind yourself, “there will be other sunsets, other laughs, other moments to scoop up your bunny and hold him close. There will be other times for telling your mother you love her or for writing your inmost thoughts in your journal. You can pray once you have your life put in order; God understands how much you have to get done. You can finish that painting later. The sky will always be there, your family will always be there…”

If this describes you (it certainly describes me), then it’s time to take a breather and meditate on what you’ve just told yourself. There will be others snows? Yes, but not this one. How do you know that you will be alive to savor that new sunset? And if you keeping suppressing that palliative, boisterous laugh until it’s more convenient, well…it just might never come. You put off that hug one more time, but it might be one time too much. The sky will always be here? Maybe, but time changes things; you will never look at the sky quite the same way twice. You change; life sweeps you along and before you realize it, you’re at the end… And your family? Your loved ones? I hate to break it to you, but they’re not going to be here forever…

Why is it that we have such a hard time resting? Meditating? Basking? I don’t mean a lazy refusal to acknowledge your duties, but I do mean the ability to keep tasks in their place. Why are we here on earth anyways? To get 100% on every assignment and be working machines who suck in facts and regurgitate information? No, no, that’s not right – we’re robots who count up our popularity votes and strive to be the smartest, the most diligent, the most hard-working…

Let me make this clear: life is not about doing. Life is not about your school transcript or your community service record. It’s not (gasp) about your grades. It’s not about your ability to impress others with your brilliance. It isn’t even about the healthiness of your lifestyle or the fitness of your body. It’s about Christ.

Do you remember this story from Luke 10?

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

In the King James Version, distracted is translated as “cumbered.” The Greek word is perispaō and means: To draw around, to draw away, distract; to be driven about mentally, to be distracted; to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing (blueletterbible.org). Do you catch the full implications of this word? Martha, like so many of us, is literally drawn away from Christ because of her preoccupation with material things. Her to-do list is dragging her mind on a mental horse-race and distracting her from what truly matters – Jesus Christ.

This isn’t to say that tasks aren’t important and that we should all eschew our various duties. God makes it clear that laziness is not tolerated in the Kingdom (2 Thess. 3:7-8, 1 Tim. 5:13). However, if we become so absorbed in all our doing that we neglect our true calling – to know Christ and to make Him known, then all our works are fruitless.

So take time today to love on those around you. Sing that merry little song that has been hovering hopefully about your soul, too frightened to squeeze out. Praise God for the glorious majesty of that sunset. Let the freshly falling snow light upon your nose. Let yourself dream those dreams that you’ve hitherto deigned impractical. Thank God for the bountiful blessings which He has so generously showered upon you. And most importantly – pray.

 

A Look at Redemption

Sometimes in the Christian walk, truths seem to grow stale; this isn’t because they are less applicable, less empowering, or less valuable, but rather because we bring our own misconceptions to the table in considering them. Sometimes a fresh perspective, a fresh explanation, of the simplest and most potent truths is the only way that they can truly hit home. Recently, I came across the beautiful poem written by George Herbert in the 17th century. Is it possible that in order to fully grasp something in all of its beauty, we must look to the wisdom of the ages in order to be lifted out of the narrowness of our perspective?

Redemption

By George Herbert

Having been tenant long to a rich lord,
    Not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold,
    And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old.
In heaven at his manor I him sought;
    They told me there that he was lately gone
    About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possessiòn.
I straight returned, and knowing his great birth,
    Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
    In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts;
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
    Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied,
    Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.
A tenant. That is what I am; that is what you are. To think that I am bankrupt? To think that I must get on my knees to beg for a “new small-rented lease”? That crushes pride and bites at the very marrow of our human nature, yet He makes it worth all the pain of self-denial. Notice that before we even ask for His grace, He grants it. With His dying breath, He gasps, “Your suit is granted,” and then expires. Have you ever thought of what Christ’s death entails? Have you ever thought of our absolute poverty in relation to Christ? And yet, we try to tell ourselves how sacrificial we are being in doing a good deed here and there, and sticking the “Christianity” sticker on it as an afterthought. Goodness! What selfish, blind creatures we are! What can we do but fall on our faces before our “rich lord” and recognize the amazing depth of His mercy to us!