There’s a funny little story about three little girls talking in a schoolyard. They’re comparing notes about who they wanted to marry. The first little girl said, “When I grow up, I want to marry a green grocer, so I can eat for nothing!” The second little girl said, “When I grow up, I want to marry a doctor, so I can get well for nothing!” And the third little girl said, “When I grow up, I want to marry a minister, so I can be good for nothing!”
From Chapter 4 of a remarkably insightful book, written over 100 years ago and from a most unlikely source, a Carthusian monk, we the following …
IV. Useless Lives
We have seen how the necessity, advantages and duties of the two ministries, active and contemplative may be deduced from our Lord’s own words. The world in its feverish activity now understands but half of God’s design. It appreciates action, but not contemplation. Men know and perceive and acknowledge the need of action, and they esteem highly whatever acts and agitates, and nothing else. In so doing they are only being consistent with human nature, but they are mistaken.
Activity is indeed necessary, and cannot be too highly esteemed, but it alone is not enough, or rather if it suffices in the bustle of everyday life, it does not suffice for that of a Christian, which is a union of divine and human elements. In our present century, when faith is departing, as soon as a generous soul flees from the world and seeks refuge in the solitude of the cloister, men speak of it as a cowardly act, not in keeping with the age in which we live. They assume that this outwardly inactive existence was a beautiful outgrowth, a luxury produced by faith in the days when faith reigned supreme.
But now that we have to defend every foot of our stronghold, and are losing ground day by day, we need active combatants, and have not too many or even enough of them. Under such circumstances, how can we view with approval those souls which are filled with faith and yet quit the field of battle? This is what people say, though they do not know what they are saying. They talk of battle, with out seeing what sort of battle it is; and they speak of a battle field, and do not perceive where the contest rages most fiercely. They accuse the most generous souls of abandoning the fray, when they are really engaging in the hottest part of the struggle.
In recent years, I have purposefully and intentionally withdrawn myself from being a man of profile and of the platform in Christian circles. There are a wide range of reasons for that, but suffice to say, in doing so, I have discovered a wonderous beauty in a place called “obscurity”.
It is a place that has become so rich and beautiful to me, that I am always extremely reluctant to leave it. (I think in some ways, I might make a good hermit! … only in some ways ….)
But withdrawal from the maddening demands that public ministry places on you, has had a remarkable benefit for me. That is, I have begun to think more clearly and to see things more broadly. Essentially, I have become more of a thinker than a talker. And I’ve realised something in that place …
It’s been my observation that within Christian circles, we have our outstanding preachers, our outstanding worship leaders, our outstanding singer/songwriters, our outstanding leaders. We could list them by the hundreds, or even the thousands. But I’m not sure I could count on one hand the men and women who are known as our outstanding thinkers.
Don’t get me wrong, we do have some. But we need more. MANY more …