Resolution #3

I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood. –Clyde Kilby

 

On Wednesday morning I left for work much later than usual. I am always one of the first people at school, but for some reason on Wednesday I took my time in the morning and made it to school right on time instead of an hour and a half early. It was nice to have the sun already halfway up when I stepped into the car. Usually I’m getting to see the first rays of morning as I drive. This later sunrise was gorgeous–there was even a tiny half-formed rainbow. It was worth being scatter-brained during first period just because of the glory of that sunrise.

It’s easy in the car, listening to my favorite music, watching a beautifully unique sunrise, to think of this day as being full of “worthy potentialities.” Somehow, though, when I unlock the door of my classroom all of those “potentialities” melt away and I am left with what seems to be another “plodding and ambiguous” day. It would seem to be an easy fix–just change your mindset and your approach to each day. But have you ever tried to change your entire paradigm for handling a difficult day? It’s tough!

On Thursday and Friday I tried to remember as I walked to my desk and looked at my to-do list that the day before me was as unique as the sunrise I had just witnessed. I would be filled with inspiration for a few moments, and then lose it all when my students walked into the room already fussing with each other. I think this is when relying on Christ becomes the most important thing I can do all day. Maybe my prayer should not have been, Lord, change my heart about these days, make me see them as worthwhile and full of opportunities. That’s a great prayer, I just don’t think it asks the right question. It asks for instant change, for a radically different mindset at 6:00 in the morning.

Maybe my prayer should have been, Lord, you have made these next 24 hours unique and beautiful. Go with me in every hour and show me the opportunities I have to glorify You. When I forget and return to plodding or complaining, show me how foolish it is to believe that this day is just an “evil parentheses.” Show me instead that by relying on You in even my most frustrating and ambiguous moments that you are merely pushing me up another rung on the ladder “toward moral and spiritual manhood.” 

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Resolution #2

“Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death, when he said, “There is darkness within, and when I die there will be darkness without. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment and then nothing.”

-Clyde Kilby

 

Intelligence requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. No thought is fully conceived without these three parts. All of life is a drama, and these are its fundamental parts: beginning, middle end. The Bible and all of creation start at the very beginning–“In the beginning God created…” If any thought is to prevent cynicism, surely this is it!

God requires a beginning, a middle, and an end of all of us–in our lives, in the universe. We all have a set storyline, a pattern and a path to follow. Knowing that there will be an end that has been planned from the beginning gives us hope and allows us to enjoy the vastness and the splendor we see here. My heart breaks for Bertrand Russell, who, in his blindness, could not see the beauty and the evidence of God in nature. I think of the places I have been where I see vastness and splendor–the Isle of Skye, the American West, the ocean and the endless skies, and I am amazed. God has granted us these things in order that we might see their splendor and praise the one who is more splendid. We should enjoy the vastness on this earth, even if this earthly majesty truly is only a triviality in the face of an eternity that is grander than any we could create or imagine.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?’

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

–Romans 11:33-35

Resolution #1

I wrote this back in August when I first decided to respond in writing to Clyde Kilby’s 10 resolutions for mental health. As it is now November, I am clearly trying to climb my way back onto the blogging wagon, seeing as I fell off back in August. Can you say blogger guilt?

Resolution #1:
“At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.”

Today I looked steadily up at the sky. It was hot and humid and the sky was full of enormous clouds. They stood in giant mounds, white on top but heavy on the bottom with gray potential. Where the sun was hidden the clouds were rimmed in an over-brilliant white—the kind of white that makes you squint. My excuse for such bold sky staring was a trip to the rental office to pay this month’s rent. As I walked I thought about Kilby’s statement: I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

Back from my mundane quest and mulling over those words, I easily understand his passion for the mysterious things that surround us. The hot breeze that makes my hair stick to my forehead is mysterious. How does it ruffle the trees and then vanish? What is its point of origin? What is its exotic destination? The clouds themselves are mysterious. They hang heavy in the sky but float along on the softest breeze. Each white plume seems to grow as you watch it, soaking up the moisture in the air like a giant kitchen sponge. The gray cast of light makes everything seem dim, yet the clouds around the sun are brilliant with August heat. The cosmos we inhabit are mysterious, to be sure, but so are these everyday miracles of nature. I agree with Kilby; these gifts of extraordinary beauty are wonderfully mysterious. As I sit and ponder, though, I wonder at his including a statement about our human condition. I am a “consciousness with a conscience,” but what difference does that make in the face of such overwhelming mystery? Why mention my state at all—why not just marvel at the God of nature?

The nearest answer I can find is that our very condition is a wonderfully mysterious thing. We are not just conscious of the beauty that surrounds us, but we are conscious that it is good. We are conscious that the giver of these gifts is good and we are mysteriously blessed to be here on this ordinary day under a hot sun.

Our conscience tells us that there cannot be such great beauty and such unrivaled mysteries above and about us without a God to whom the glory can be given. We must choose to remember, when we drive home and see the clouds piled high on the sunset or when we glance out the window at a rain shower, to be thankful that we are conscious of this beauty. We must also remember that we can only respond to such beauty because of the God who sculpts the clouds and provides the rain.

For me personally, this resolution serves to remind me of the reason I have always enjoyed looking at the clouds; every day they are uniquely beautiful. I have never seen two skies that look exactly the same. Today I am reminded that only an infinitely beautiful and infinitely creative God could provide unique skies over us all our lives. He is the wonderfully mysterious thing above and about us.

Inspiration from John Piper

Recently I have been reading John Piper’s devotional Taste and See before bed. One of the meditations a few nights ago was inspired by an English professor of Piper’s, Clyde Kilby. Piper recalls a lecture in which Kilby challenged his students to “drink in the remedies of God in nature” instead of “seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis” (Piper 69). Kilby then went on to give ten resolutions for mental health. These resolutions resonated with me, and I have returned to them many times in the few short days since I first read them.

I have decided to take each of the ten resolutions in turn and respond to them in writing. My next ten posts will be dedicated to this particular idea and source of inspiration.

All of these resolutions are taken from John Piper’s Taste and See, published by Multnomah Books. You can find the book here and Piper’s website here.