The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you?* Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.
–Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard
*No, I am not actually decrying Christian scholarship. I’ve entertained the idea of further Biblical studies myself. But even that thought strikes a certain holy fear within me, a fear that papers and studies and lectures could become an intellectual routine that places a damper on the fire of the Spirit in my heart. (This reminds me of Sheldon Vanauken’s suspicion that the Yale scholars with whom he studied were people who “forget in a world of grey stone and parchment that stars shine on a tree in the quad, that the poem sings.”)
But how long would I need to partake in Christian scholarship before I finally reach the conclusion that Jesus is calling me to live a life very different from the one I now lead? That his definitions of comfort, safety, and success are very different from mine? Maybe I don’t need another master’s degree. Maybe I need to be a little more literal.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Excerpts from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”
This was a very meaningful day.
I can’t say that about every day. Does that sound sad? It’s actually not too upsetting to me. I’m one of those people who finds meaning in tiny things, like the way sunlight filters through leaves, or moon glow that lights up the entire night sky, or more ridiculous pleasures like getting every possible green light on the way to work. These small things somehow sustain my soul throughout the course of my day. I’m not actually sure that I could handle very meaningful things on a daily basis. I’m just a small-meaning type of person.
Today, however, definitely fell under the big-meaning category. For the past seven months, I have been an intern at my county’s rape crisis center. I was scared out of my mind to intern at a rape crisis center, but every single day has been a gift. I cannot convey the hope I have been given as I see clients who are wounded and broken, and yet who manifest such strength and beauty. I have been privileged to be part of this journey.
Today’s meaning is thanks to a lovely good-bye lunch given by the women who guided and supported and sometimes mothered me during the past few months. They gave me some beautiful gifts and kind words as they said their good-byes. It felt like a blessing as I move on to the next grand adventure.
During my good-bye lunch, our team did some art therapy together. We each made a collage depicting our hopes for the coming year. Mine ended up being a perfect description of the past few months, and hopefully of the next year as well. I colored a background of a dirt road winding over rolling hills. Over that I pasted cut-out letters that said, “Life keeps beginning.” That’s the only way I can describe my experience: every time I went to a hospital or took part in group therapy or got a new client, I felt like a part of my life was starting for the very first time, or like a part of me has been sleeping my whole life and is finally waking up. It’s such a cool feeling, one that I do not take for granted. I’m just so excited to be beginning the rest of this social work life (except for the part where I accrue tons of debt).
So, I’m thankful for these occasional very meaningful days. They’re memorial stones along life’s path, and testaments to the faithfulness and wisdom of God.