The Dancing Puritan

Monday, July 22, 2013

Decisions and Fruitfulness

Early Morning Scene from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Why do we make the choices that we do? We usually attribute the best of motives to our decisions. But we are painfully aware that our best thoughts and activities are not as pure as we might imagine.

It is possible to think so much about the end of our days that we fail to shift the gear into drive.  We might contemplate and imagine the future without making an attempt at the present. In the classic book, A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis, he writes of his deceased wife, Her palate for all the joys of sense and intellect and spirit was fresh and unspoiled. Nothing would have been wasted on her. She liked more things and liked them more than anyone I had known. A noble hunger, long unsatisfied, met at last its proper food, and almost instantly the food was snatched away.

As Lewis grieved the loss of his wife he recollected that, while she lived, she enjoyed her life.

Looking back, the image that frightens me is that I have somehow let the minutes, the hours, and the days pass me by without the engagement of life that Lewis describes. I find myself repenting, time and again, of time unredeemed. Without looking back morbidly, it is my desire to use past failures as an impetus for future growth.

The apostle Paul writes, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me . . . (Philippians 1:21-22).  Paul said, to live is Christ. What that meant for Paul was to live every day in such a way as to cultivate a fruit-producing life. He was not content to just live out his life in trivial pursuits. His passion was Christ and that meant, in part, a life engaged in rigorous and joyful enterprises. He was not interested in running or laboring in vain (2:16).

I am sure that you join me in not wanting to spin your wheels and live out the rest of your days in vain. In my case I felt the need to find ways to clear out cob-webs that have settled in my brain and to allow fresh winds blow on my heart. One of the steps that I have taken is take up the books and engage in formal studies again. Until recently the last time that I was on a seminary campus as a student was  in 1988. Twenty-five years later here I am again and at one of the busiest and most challenging times of my life.

Why? Why add to my already overwhelmed life the new and heavy responsibilities of doctoral work?  Why not swim to the shore and bask in the sunshine for a few years. The voices inside and some on the outside have called me to slow down and to take a break. Those voices are not without warrant. I hear them and understand them.

I am not a Wesleyan but John Wesley is instructive on some points. It is said that Wesley had a keen sense of being able to hold seemingly contradictory truths in balance (see Paul Chilcote's book: Recapturing the Wesleys' Vision). It is true that the Lord gives rest to his children (Psalm 127). It is also true that laboring beyond the point of fatigue is a mark of Christians.  Rest and work are friends that must never separate. More work may sometimes provide the rest that is needed. Rest enables more productive work.

Long hours of reading books, writing book reviews, research papers, and a doctoral thesis may not be a part of the answer for you.  For me I am finding that such things, though difficult, are bringing refreshment to my life. I am hopeful that such refreshment will help me to live out my days in a fruitful manner.