Inklings (various slightly related thoughts meandering towards the best)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A few thoughts of varying consequence have flitted through the wax tablet that is my mind.

First of all, I had dinner and beer with one of the Anglo-Saxon arena's most preeminent scholars. I had a headache the next day because of the beer, but came away with much invaluable insight, and a story to boast about, so it was of course much more than worth it.

Second of nothing, I won a coffee with Roll up the Rim, and when I picked up my free coffee, I promptly won a donut. However, this was rather to my disappointment because it was neither the laptop I was hoping for, nor the self-perpetuating opportunity for this said laptop (in other words, another free coffee would have been preferable, if only for the rim to roll again).

Thirdly (and to include a third point is a standard rhetorical technique meant to instill a sense of weight and gravity to what I am saying), I have realized this past week just how much I enjoy the so-called 'dead' languages (and if we realized how much they impact our current speech and thought, we might not so impertinently label them so). I know that life is short and I need to be wise about what I devote myself to, but I genuinely think that a moderate commitment to Old English, Middle English, Anglo-Norman, koine/classical Greek, and Latin will be worth it. At some point in time, when the end-of-term papers are less pressing, I will lay out my reasons for thinking so.

And left as the tag-line, the last thought, that inconsequential 'p.s.' which often in fact carries the most force of emotion and conviction, that which we panic over as we close our letters because we fear we may have been misunderstood or left out the most important, that is this:

When I started graduate studies, I had this horrible fear that I was running ahead of God, that I had not waited for His leading and that He was therefore disappointed or angry at me. Believing this, I left Him out of my academic life, feeling that He didn't want to be included and indeed, would not help me even if I asked Him. I will leave it to your imagination as to what the consequences were of such a belief my first semester.

After He showed me that He more cared that I glorify Him wherever I am, and that He is more concerned with me seeking His face in whatever situation I place myself in, I began wrestling with my own tendencies to worry about my inadequacies as a student (and, of course, as a person). In this vein, there were weeks when I was in the tedious 'depths of despair' and ready to leave my studies for a multitude of possible reasons: I am too tired! I have perpetual writer's block! I have no one here who understands me! I can't understand anything I'm reading! This is keeping me from the glories of serving Him in overt ministry positions! Of course, the practical inconvenience of going through giving up and dropping out has, I'm sure, kept many a grad student in grad school. These times would fluctuate and with feathered wings the sun would rise and shine over other, cheerier weeks, when I would be excited about what I was learning, excited to be getting to know my grad cohort, excited to be teaching, excited to be challenged and stretched as a student (and, of course, as a person).

Yesterday, He whispered something to me, something that I don't think I've thought about for a very long time. If you will allow me to translate the Spirit's movement into cyber-text English, He said, "All that is good in Anglo-Saxon studies is Mine."

O my God, I thought, what have I been doing?! Do You wait beside me and sigh, because here I am, pleading, begging, sobbing that You would just help me get by? When all the time, You own it? It's Yours: every good aspect of it belongs to and is an expression of You.

As I thought about this, the commandment, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men" hit home for me more than ever. Before, I was approaching my studies as if they were gods threatening to tear me from Him, as if this was their primary relation to me. And truly, how often have I struggled with depending on achieving good grades, as well as my professors' and peers' approval, for my own self-assurance and significance. How often I have lamented that my schooling requires me to spend much more time reading texts and articles than meditating on His life-expressing Word? And yet, my primary relationship to my studies is not of my studies as potential temptation. What a subtle, sneaky, suffocating snippet of a lie I have been swallowing! Rather, it is my studies as potential glory.

You may say, what's the difference? Aren't these simply two sides of the same coin: either you give glory to God or you give in to temptation, giving glory to other gods? But I think there is a profound difference. It is all about our position, our orientation. It is true that life is a battle, that there is a war waged over souls, and that we struggle against the spiritual authorities in the spiritual realms. And yet. And yet. And yet we are not on neutral ground. It is not as if we stand on the narrow plank of a fence and with every step must either tilt to the temptation or tilt to God. Why do I say this? Because the Spirit of God abides deep, deep within me, deeper than I can conceive. That there is a narrow neutral fence plank is an illusion. My starting place is this: His Spirit is already at work in me, sustaining me and empowering me to live to His glory each day. It is true that I may be tempted and I may start worshiping my damned gods at any given minute - but I do not have to. That is not who I am.

Here it is, my thesis: I am doing my studies because He is in them in the most intimate and ultimate way, and I want to enjoy Him in them and glorify Him in them with all people as witnesses to His glory.

O, I'm so familiar with the distortion that permeates life. But I want to increasingly see the face of God everywhere I look! And believe Him (I originally wrote "me" there, but it certainly isn't me), the reality is that every place we go, every circumstance we find ourselves oppressed or delighted by, we Christians experience in Christ. Therefore, when I go to class tomorrow, my primary position in relation to that experience is not my own internal/external/may-feel-like-eternal struggle against sin and death, but rather my primary position in relation to that experience is that Jesus owns me in it, and Jesus owns it, and Jesus says, "Come, follow me."

Yes, He tells me to pick up my cross, to count the cost. But based on my very limited experience and on the Bible's binding authority, as we do this, as we follow Him, as we keep crying out for Him and thirsting after Him - as we rest in Him, we become enamored with Him and increasingly experience and realize that we are actually in Him.

And He is glorious beyond all memory and imagination.


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