During the break my wife and I stopped to reflect on different going-ons. With the birth of our son over the summer, a whole new dynamic entered the household: what do I, as father and husband, decide to drop? Quite simply, too much went on last semester. I’m making a conscientious attempt to be more balanced this semester, including saying “no” when possible.
This is the thought I had: as last semester came to a close, I had inordinate amounts of stress piling up on me. We pulled through, I didn’t fail anything, but the effect on our home life was less than commendable. Just wading through all the assignments in addition to two jobs and family life was overwhelming.
But what’s been sweet on the backend is apparent: increased time in the Word on my own, increased vitality in my love for God, real prayer taking place personally, and many other things.
This is what I said about it to Natalie: all semester long I’ve been in food prep class. Getting to taste the things I’m preparing, but not hovering over a meal to enjoy it. Now, having prepared the banquet during the semester, the time for feasting has arrived. I’m hoping to integrate the preparation with the feasting a bit better this semester. One thing is for certain: this semester has more margin built into it arbitrarily. Trusting that God will continue to show Himself in truth to us as we pursue Him in His Word… in seminary and apart from it.
Full disclosure: Christian fiction fascinates me. Not because I’ve read very much of it, but because of the place that it occupies in the conservative Christian subculture. I find most of it uninteresting, and occasionally find it disgusting. Some books masquerade as “Christian,” getting wide exposure and acclaim in the Christian community while doing little more than promoting sentimentality and titilating the senses.
My prejudices aside, this is how the thought was sparked: while at Barnes and Noble today, I was struck by the size of the Christian fiction section compared to the non-fiction section. Noting this phenomenon, I curiously perused through the other religious sections (as I often do), particularly looking for traces of fiction. No Bhuddist fiction, no Muslim fiction, no Hindu fiction. Just Christian fiction. “Perhaps merely an American phenomenon,” I thought. A quick perusal of British fiction bestsellers over the last few years added evidence; no “Christian” fiction on British bestseller lists.
The more I thought about it, the more it fascinated me, especially as I looked at religious fiction around the world. I spent about 45 minutes looking at big news sites and various versions of Amazon.com. Not a lot of religious fiction around the world.
Granted that a large swath of the population in the U.S. is at least ostensibly “Christian”, and granted that fiction is more popular than non-fiction. Beyond those reasons, why is there so much Christian fiction, especially in the United States?
It seemed to me self-evident that one essential property of love, hate, fear, hope, or desire was attention to their object. To cease thinking about or attending to the woman is, so far, to cease loving; to cease thinking about or attending to the dreaded thing is, so far, to cease being afraid. But to attend to your own love or fear is to cease attending to the loved or dreaded object. In other words the enjoyment and the contemplation of our inner activities are incompatible. You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope’s object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning round to look at the hope itself. Of course the two activities can and do alternate with great rapidity; but they are distinct and incompatible.
– C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
Jason Meyer has used this quote in class recently as it relates to our worship, and especially our worship as we herald God’s Word. I’ve been pondering it over in my mind as it relates to personal worship in morning devotions… do I focus on the action of reading, my worship… or the Object Who lies behind the reading and Whom the worship is towards? There’s a gap. I want to see it continually closed, by grace.
The last time I wrote on this subject, the “switch” referred to moving to Minneapolis, beginning seminary, etc. Now the change is much more profound. Caedmon arrived back in August, and the blessings haven’t stopped. I mean so much more than just noticing a smile, singing a song to him, hearing him coo, etc.
You see, this little boy is a miracle. Yes, it is true that they’re all miracles. Our situation heightened awareness of what we otherwise may have been taken for granted. Caedmon was supposedly an impossibility. Too many complications from too many years of sickness for my wife. Caedmon is our “Abraham and Sarah” baby. Now I read Hebrews 11:8-12 with greater understanding and appreciation for the God who gives grace and fulfills promises:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
I can kinda’ crawl around inside Abraham and Sarah’s minds. No, I haven’t been promised innumerable offspring. No, we were never promised a son. There’s no promise as per se that we had from the Word concerning offspring, but we knew that God would “work all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28ff). That’s grace… good coming to us from God, undeserved. All things? Yes, all things. Thinking from the perspective of a man who thought he’d never have a biological son… yes, this is nothing short of pure, unbridled grace. Something we didn’t deserve, and yet here he is. The same is true of everyone, if only they had eyes to see. Lord, give me sharper eyes to see.
Natalie and I are rejoicing in him… and in Him. God is everlastingly good, even if He hadn’t given us a son or if He someday takes ours away. The fact that we have a son for any length of time proves all the more that Yahweh is the God of the womb and the God who lavishes love upon us.
But there’s been even more grace poured out… the kind that humiliates and humbles. More on that soon.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve written here. It may be a bit ambitious to return to blogging at such a time, with my second year of seminary continuing and a brand new child having just arrived. I feel the need to return to blogging… to continue to pour out some of my thoughts in a sort of overflow as they pertain to ministry, seminary, family, and life.
Hope to post in the next few days.
Today, October 15th, marks the fifth anniversary of Tim Trometer’s death. Tim was my college roommate during the first part of my freshman year. If one quality could describe Tim, it surely would be His love for Christ… and his fun-loving, goofy personality cannot be easily forgotten. In the few months that I knew Tim, we became fast friends. God was good to place me in that room, and good to take Tim in the way He did.
Sovereignty was on the front end of Tim’s death in a discussion in our room about death and contentedness the Tuesday before he died, and on the back end in the eulogy that Tim’s father gave. He exalted our sovereign, massive God in all His ways. I’ve never looked at God the same since that week.
For five years now Tim has beheld His face… a sweet reminder in the midst of all this.
God ordains in the lives of his messengers that suffering severs our bondage to the world. When joy and love survive this severing, we are fit to say to the nations with authenticity and power: Hope in God.
– John Piper
This is the legacy that Trommy left, the legacy that Jesus Christ left, and the legacy we’re called to leave: hope in God. Let this be cemented anew within me amid all the memories. May the sorrow we feel in retrospect be overcome with great joy as we grow by grace in faith towards our great God.