Crouch on Solitude

Andy Crouch (2017) on solitude, silence, and fasting:

The central disciplines of the spiritual life, as taught by generations of Christian saints, have stayed the same for twenty centuries now: solitude, silence, and fasting. Each of these pushes us beyond our natural limits, and all of them give us spiritual resources for everyday life that we can’t gain any other way.

Very few of us, for example, are meant to spend our lives largely alone, but there person who has not experienced or cannot bear solitude is missing an essential part of maturity. (“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community….Let him who is not in community beware of being alone” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer.) We are not meant for perpetual silence – we are meant to listen and speak. Bu the person who has not experienced or cannot bear silence does not understand what they hear and has little to offer when they speak. And of corse we are meant to eat, and even to feast, but only when we fast do we make real progress toward being free of our dependence on food to soothe our depression and anesthetize our anxieties.

The disciplines, by taking us to our very limits, gradually move those limits…

The most powerful choices we will make in our lives are not about specific decisions but about patterns of life: the nudges and disciplines that will shape all our other choices.” (pp. 36-37)

Crouch, A. (2017). The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place.

Powering Down

Ray Ortlund on moving from an iPhone back to a flip phone:

In the short time I have left in this life, I want maximum divine blessing, which requires calmness of heart, mental clarity, capacity for undisturbed concentration, so that I can walk in the presence of the risen Jesus rather than crawl through every day buffeted by our screamingly intrusive world. In other words, “I have calmed and quieted my soul” (Psalm 131:2).

The Power of Expectations

How powerful are expectations? Very. We feed on the expectations of others.

Consider this example:

The tendency to see in others what we’ve been led to expect takes its name from Shaw’s play [Pygmalion]. Called the Pygmalion effect, it’s nicely suited to controlled experiments. In one of the best-known experimental investigations of the Pygmalion effect, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacboson administered what they called the “Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition” to students in a West Coast school. Subsequently, they met with the students’ teachers to present the results of the test. In particular, Rosenthal and Jacobson identified certain students as very likely to exhibit a sudden spurt in academic abilities during the coming year, based on the results of the test.

When IQ test scores were compared later, the researchers’ predictions proved accurate. The students identified as “spurters” far exceeded their classmates during the following year, suggesting that the predictive test was a powerful one. In fact, the test was a hoax! The researchers had made their predictions randomly among both good and poor students. What they told the teachers did not really reflect students’ test scores at all. The progress made by the “spurters” was simply a result of the teachers expecting the improvement and paying more attention to those students, encouraging them, and rewarding them for achievements. (Babbie, 2012, p. 243)

We might apply this example in two directions.

First, whose expectations are we listening to? Are we living in light of others’ expectations? Or, are we listening to the expectations of God? If He views us as sons and daughters, how does that change the way we live now and view ourselves?

Second, what are our expectations of others? Do we see in them God-given, Christ-bought, Spirit-empowered potential? Or, do we limit them with our own lack-of-faith expectations?

Just some food for thought today.

dg

Babbie, E. (2012). The practice of social research (13th edition). Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth Publishing.

Oh, Earth

In high school, the school drama troupe performed Our Town by Thornton Wilder. One line from the play struck me then and has stayed with me ever since.

The line comes towards the end of the play when the young heroine of the story, who has died but been allowed to visit a day in her life, must return to her grave. Her ghosted self looks upon her family and town one last time. She speaks though they cannot hear her. Looking down at this one day, a day like any other, she says:

[Softly, more in wonder than in grief] I can’t bear it. They’re so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old? Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all, everything. – I cant look at everything hard enough. [Pause, talking to her mother who does not hear her. She speaks with mounting urgency] Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother, Mama. I married George Gibbs, Mama. Wally’s dead, too. Mama, his appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember? But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another. [Pause, looking desperate because she has received no answer. She speaks in a loud voice, forcing herself to not look at her mother] I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. [She breaks down sobbing, she looks around] I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look.

She sees in hindsight every moment for what it really was, beautiful and fleeting (“all that was going on and we never noticed”). She then bids farewell:

Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up.

It seems every pedestrian detail was so precious and potentially glorious. And then, she says the line that struck me as a teenager, the line that always returns to me whenever I pause long enough to think and consider my days, moments like New Year’s Eve when I look back at the year. She says:

Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?

It is all so wonderful. The good days and the bad. The little jokes shared between siblings. The hurried dinners. The practices and drop-off lines. The late nights and early mornings. The quiet cup of coffee. The tears and sorrow. The birthday parties and housekeeping. The questions and adventures. It is all so wonderful because it is life, life on this earth.

We were meant to live life on earth, with God and without sin and without death. This was the plan from the beginning. And even this broken life, a paltry taste of the edenic life for which we were made, speaks of this untold, once-told glory. Being alive, walking this planet, is still awesome. It is still tied back to the original plan: life! This is why death is always sad, even the death of a believer, because we were meant for life, to live. And this is why we rejoice that one day death will be swallowed up and God will make a new earth for us and Him and we will have life everlasting.

Returning to the play, you should know the young lady’s question does not go unanswered. To the question “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute,” the stage manager, who acts as the narrator, replies, “No. The poets and the saints, maybe they do some.” Did you hear that? The poets and the saints! Maybe you are no poet, but if you are in Christ, you are a saint. It is to us to be the keepers of the time. We are the watchmen who know the hour and await the restoration of all things. We are the ones who should number our days aright. We are the one who know the mystery of redemption and life everlasting. For we know Jesus, the defeater of death, the restorer, the one who makes all things new. The one who gives life.

In this new year, may you revel in the glory of every day and everyday life, even as you anticipate and hasten that future Day, when life on earth will be restored to its dreamed state.

Happy New Year.

dg

No Worries

On a quiet day off, I found myself rereading my old journals. I have journaled for years. I am not methodical in my journaling. Months may go by between each entry. Some entries span pages, and others barely take up a line or two. But I have always scribbled down notes and thoughts and prayers since elementary school.

So I pored over these pages, seeing my old self now embalmed in scratches of ink. I read mostly from college journals and seminary journals. Honestly, a great deal of it was somewhat embarrassing. The worries and wars of my 20-year-old self were not particularly noble. And, I tend to journal when I am in one mood: down. (I have often, half-jokingly, worried aloud to Jess that our kids will come across these old journals and conclude I was the most depressed person in the world)!

But silly adolescent ramblings aside, the overwhelming takeaway from this journey through the past was thankfulness for God’s provision and the conclusion that the worry wasn’t worth it.

The worry wasn’t worth it!

So many entries were about this or that unanswered question. Direction, jobs, relationships, school, and so forth…so many unknowns bothered me, and yet, looking back, each issue was resolved in time and with grace. Many questions I simply could not know then, but God would answer them all in his perfect timing. While giving these concerns to the Lord was certainly right and good, any second I spent in worry wasn’t worth it. God was and is faithful.

I come away from these journals determined to pray more and worry less.

How about you? Does the rearview mirror reveal the same for you?