A Point of Reference
The Israelites had stones they placed to remind them of what God had done…I guess we all have similar things in our lives.
“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder…to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD…These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7)
I love what Madeleine l’Engle writes in her book “The Love Letters.”
“Supposing,” she said, slowly, “you are sitting in a train standing still in a great railroad station. And supposing the train on the track next to yours began to move. It would seem to you that it was your train that was moving, and in the opposite direction. The only way you could tell about yourself, which way you were going, or even if you were going anywhere at all, would be to find a point of reference, something standing still, perhaps a person on the next platform; and in relation to this person you could judge your own direction and motion. The person standing still on the platform wouldn’t be telling you where you were going or what was happening, but without him you wouldn’t know. You don’t need to yell out the train window and ask directions. All you need to do is see your point of reference.”
A year ago, I wrote out some thoughts for my dad on a passage he was about to preach on…thoughts and concepts that came to mind personally as I read 1 Peter 1:13-16.
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.‘”
Striving for excellence, even though glorification will never be attained in this life… Yet we are still commanded to pursue holiness. So as my “stone of remembrance” or “point of reference,” I decided to post my year-old letter… I feel as if I’ve fallen so far from this point, but God’s grace is sufficient and when I am weak He is strong. And life is a learning process.
Read Screwtape Letters chapters nine and ten…. “I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as ‘Puritanism’–and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life.”
I wish I could succinctly express my thoughts on the passage, but I think I’ll just have to ramble and hope you can get the idea…
I look at myself and my generation….and we take a lot of things seriously. But most of them are the wrong things. The environment, homosexuality, our favorite TV shows… It seems as if we waste a lot of time. we get caught up in having fun and absorbed in ourselves. It’s the whole college mentality “it’s all about me.” we float through life one “party” (insert anything else) to the next in a half hazardous way. I guess it goes back to redeeming the time…the days are short…what am I doing NOW to bring God glory or change a life…the butterfly effect. life is serious. every word, action, thought shifts the balance of the universe… at times I’ve been scared of expressing my thoughts or feelings because I know the second I do so, the second it’s out there in the open, everything can shift, and you can’t take it back. Everything we do or DONT do (which is usually the case) affects something else, which then affects another thing…like this snowball effect… CS Lewis differentiates “Joy” from “flippancy.” We’re incredibly flippant creatures, rather than joyful ones. Life is a serious thing, but it doesn’t mean there is no Joy… We shouldn’t be flippant with our lives, actions, words…God has redeemed us and created us for good works. We are called to redeem creation, to bring back joy, and that takes a serious mindset…prepared for action…ready to jump at any moment and bring healing or block any blow that comes our way. The devils prowls around…we have to be on our toes.
Are we actively pursuing goals? Are we even identifying them? Are we taking the time to reflect and discover our God-given desires or areas we fall short in? Or are we spending too much time being introspective and not realizing someone around us hurting? As Christians, it’s easy to feel benevolence towards a theoretical person and think we’re loving people but not realize our “malicious” tendencies of the very people we interact with on a day to day basis… I mean, you can attest that a lot of the time I talked about helping other people and left Mom swamped with a dirty kitchen.. (this was another idea I got from Lewis today) You can’t just jump into something and expect everything to be ok…yes, we shouldn’t be anxious…but I have heard that used as an excuse so many times it practically infuriates me…people claim they are “easy going” when in reality they’re just lazy. Yes, God will win the battle but we have to enter into it and fight…
I begin every semester with a “battle plan”…I list my priorities and my goals…the uncompromisable…and then I look at all of them, and figure out the strategy I need to conquer all of them. Because if I don’t, I won’t be able to healthily manage anything or reach my goals. People whine about their lives, but they don’t DO anything to change it…or they talk about it…I feel like Christians talk a lot…if we spent all the energy talking and whining about things and actually did something, things might actually change…(ha, I think I got this from you….) So….drill sergeant moment, JUST DO IT already! quit the excuses and self-defeated remarks, arm yourself for battle, prepare yourself mentally, be alert to God’s leading, aware of Satan’s wooing, and wait on God.
I realized Thursday that I rarely ever take time to Be Still. I whine about not having the time…yeah I sit down and read my bible, check that off my to-do list, and hop on my computer. The media seems to me is incredibly detrimental to being sober-minded. Being alert. Because we always have that buzzz buzz or ring ring to interupt a thought process. But if we’re never still, and if that’s never a priority, it makes it hard for us to hear God, to see areas needed to grow, or become aware of the desires God’s putting on our hearts… If I don’t know how I’m struggling, or how Satan is attacking me, how can I be prepared?
I think it comes down to Priority. To keep up with everything in life, we have to be active about setting aside time or doing things a certain way. I have to go to bed a lot earlier so I can wake up at 5am and be a happy person able to take care of the residents in a caring hopefully Christ-like way for eight hours and have the energy to be able to go study afterward so I can make A’s in my class to get into nursing school to be the nurse I believe God is calling me to be. But it takes a lot of planning. It takes being prepared. It takes being organized…which for me, has been a bit of a learning process… I learned this week that I am a really lazy person. Til a week ago, my room looked like a tornado had blown through. (The only good thing about it was no one could see the blue carpet, as Grandma pointed out…) Learning the discipline of taking the extra five or ten or fifteen minutes to do something right and clean up after myself feels like I’m working a muscle that hasn’t been worked in awhile…but working at a nursing home where I’m coming in, making a mess, being overwhelmed with how much to do, and learning the discpline to neatly organize and take the extra minute and pick up my mess has been…a challenge… It takes being very mentally active and very much not self-absorbed….growing up is rough.
I guess what I’m saying….is the Christian life is ACTIVE. The verbs you see…one day I sat down and read all the little books of the Bible and I was struck by the verb usage. Stand, prepare, gird, put on, hold, strive, run, push…which is why I love exercise so much. It’s a mental and spiritual thing just as much as physical. And I feel defeated when I am “too tired” to work out.
One of my favorite characters in Harry Potter was a “defense against the dark arts” professor. He taught the students how to detect and defend against dark magic. Whenever the students would fail to remain alert, or not alert enough, he would yell “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” And since part of the “dark magic” in our lives are in ourselves (the old nature) as well as external spiritual forces, how much more do we need to be on constant vigilance…
Not even to mention holiness. I love that lewis quote on “puritanical.” None of us can ever grasp “holiness” but some people don’t even try. People don’t understand that Holiness is pursuing Joy, not seeing how much we can flirt with darkness. It’s about the blazing center and orbiting the Sun.
In my generation I see apathy, laziness, a que sera sera attitude towards life…when we need to care, desire, fight, defend, run, train, and be alert. It touches every aspect of life: spiritual, physical, mental…when one is out of line, we open ourselves up to be assaulted. “Indeed the safest road to Hell is a gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (Screwtape Ch 12) A smart person doesn’t go walking in a bad part of town alone, yet, I do that every day spiritually. I just don’t get it sometimes. I guess I just don’t feel like many people “get it” or if they do, they don’t think it’s dangerous. We are easily flippant creatures instead of joyful ones.