I’ve been reading this book and, I have to say, it has completely rocked my mind. I’ve struggled for years between these conflicting ideas that God is hidden by “too much” education and the belief that studying brings glory to my Creator. The notion that there’s no room for a Christian worldview in the academic realm has always seemed a basic truth. When I’ve written my various papers on Hemingway or Beowulf, allowing my Biblical education to hold sway on my interpretations, I have feared rejection. I’ve never even tried to get published because I simply have never thought that I would stand a chance. “Who would want to publish a paper about Hemingway harboring a Christian worldview in his works?” Nobody. But after reading this book, I’m not as convinced.
Ultimately, intellectual work of this sort is its own reward, because it is focused on the only One whose recognition is important, the One before whom all hearts are open. – Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
James Sire’s claim in Habits of the Mind, that all Christians are called to clear and productive use of their minds, strikes such a profound chord in me. As he reminds his readers over and over again, “love of the truth brings obedience, holiness and further grasp of the truth.” A person who “shall love the Lord your God…all your mind” cannot help but obey Jesus and love God with their heart and soul as well (Matthew 22:37). The three parts work together. This doesn’t mean everyone is called to college. It means that everyone should love God as best they can with the capabilities that have been given them. And I, rarely, have lived out all three parts of the “greatest commandment.”
I’ve often loved God with all of my heart, but not my mind. Or all of my mind, but not my soul. I’ve compartmentalized my life, and as a result missed out on much of what God’s life in me is really about. I’m only now realizing that the “greatest commandment” is not a multiple choice command. We, as Christians, pick and choose so often, but that’s not how its supposed to work.
Sire’s book has inspired me: inspired me to pick up my Bible more and get to know Jesus all over again, yet its also inspired me to resume the academic work that has meant so much to me in recent years. There is a vast landscape laid open before me, and I hope that I can be receptive enough to see the truth of the entire horizon that is God’s life in me. It’s an exciting day.
…’Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21
I am fairly sure that when I stand before my Lord, He will not call me a “good and faithful servant.” So how does a person go from being a creature without faith, a servant who is lazy and doubting, to being the servant who was able to “enter into the joy of [his] master”?
A firm understanding of the “things” that we have been given charge of is crucial to being faithful. But be warned, by seeking knowledge of that to which you are called can produce a singular sense of failure. To see what God intended your life to be, and then to see what you have made of it, is quite possibly one of the most devastating revelations in a person’s life. So before you begin that search, be prepared for the path it will lead you down.
Perhaps you think me mean-spirited for discouraging a person from seeking God’s purpose in their life. If you will indulge me, I will try to explain. I would never desire for a person to stop their pursuit of God. That pursuit is the goal of my own life. But, very often a false sense of purpose brings people to this search. I have often heard, “it doesn’t matter why people come. It only matters that they come.” While that may hold true to the initial seeking between God and man, I do no think that such a simple perspective can be maintained when an individual begins digging into the higher thoughts and desires of God. Our purposes must always be clearly understood, or we will never gain a full understanding of His Purposes. As long as we seek His Will out of selfish desires, we will be a frustrated people and will do more damage than good.
Norah: Are you sorry that we missed it?
Nick: We didn’t miss it. This is it. C’mon. You wanna go home?
Everyone has an "it". "It" is that one thing we search for: more money, a job we like, someone who makes our loneliness go away, a better car, freedom on our own terms… And really the list could go on.
Often we miss out on the journey because we’re so busy looking for the journey’s end. We miss the forest for the trees, or whatever other silly cliche goes along with this thought. We frequently go about our lives with our priorities misaligned.
We do this to God. We pray because we need wisdom, or we’re feeling lonely. We don’t pray to bring ourselves closer to God. The result becomes so much more important to us than the process, and we ask God to cater to us in that regard. Does God answer our prayers all the same? Yes. And of course, sometimes No. There’s no formula for how to get the Lord to do as we ask. But that is the point
God is in the process. He’s in every step we take on the various journeys we find ourselves in. And each of us should learn to better walk the path.
It’s rare that I go to God in prayer simply because I want to talk to Him. It’s not rare that I call my girl friend just to hear her voice, or that I swing by my best friend’s house because I miss seeing him. These things aren’t bad, but they reveal the areas in my life where the end is more important than the way. And in many respects, that needs to change.
Certain animal are known for being stubborn. Goats, in particular, have intense wills of their own. Unlike sheep, they are not very inclined to obey their shepherd. Self-preservation is what dictates life for them. My dad has always raised goats, and they serve as a constant source of aggravation. Over the last few years, he has taken to raising Boer goats. This particular breed is a meat goat, and therefore quite strong. They break things. They get out of their pen. Yet my dad loves tending to them. And there are some who reciprocate. Occasionally one will even seek him out for a nice ear scratch or a belly rub. Generally, these are the ones who are the most docile. My dad calls them "people goats."
There is always something, though, that even these "people goats" won’t submit on. When being treated for worms, the most domesticated doe will fight and kick because she doesn’t understand that this temporary struggle is for her own good. The males, they’re even worse.
It makes me ashamed, because I know that I behave like this. I know that when God wants me to submit, something will inevitably provoke me to fight. The one thing I refuse to submit on, that’s what God will require. Not because He’s just being provocative, but because He knows where I need healing the most. And that’s generally the same place I’m not willing to give in.
My stubbornness is never the problem. Something is always underlying that. Some pain I don’t want to experience again, or some issue I have with trust. There’s always a justification for the one thing I won’t let go. Ultimately, its a question of whether or not I want God’s life over my own? And there are some days the answer isn’t easy to come by. The hope is this: that no matter what my attitude might be from day to day, that I’m never willing to stop dealing with the question. I may kick and fight and struggle just like those goats, but in the end I have to learn to believe that God is always bringing me towards what’s best. Even when everything seems so dim.