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In recent years, I have purposefully and intentionally withdrawn myself from being a man of profile and of the platform in Christian circles.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 …
Some years ago I had an opportunity to spend a full day with Paul Cain, and one of the things I spoke with him about was a statement he made many years ago about himself … that he didn’t consider himself anything more than “an anointed observer”.
With that in mind, I believe there is much going on in the world today that needs a God-perspective brought to it, and much deep thought from a Christian perspective applied to it.
As the writer from our book quote said, we need “brave souls” who will resist the desire to be famous .. I’m sorry, I meant, “brave souls” who will resist the desire to “have a ministry” … in order to think more deeply about the issues that truly affect us all. And, most importantly I believe, to only speak about those things when the thinking has been done.
I believe too many of us have paid the price for thinking “done on the run”. Far too many Christian and secular leaders get on the band wagon of the next-best-thing .. when what they need to be doing is concentrating on “the one thing”. Like the voice over the radio kept saying to Luke Skywalker when trying to destroy the Death Star in Star Wars .. we need leaders who will “stay on target!”
World events in recent months have been fascinating, what with the ruckus caused over Danny Nalliah’s prophecy regarding John Howard and Peter Costello, and now the campaign and subsequent election of Barak Obama as the United States’ President.
Whether Danny was right or wrong in his prophecy is neither here nor there, as I have had much to say about that previously, which I continue to stand by. But it is interesting to me is that John Howard and Peter Costello were the men most closely aligned to the conservative right of Australian politics, and yet, they had little to say during their campaign that spoke to the hearts of Australians.
Kevin Rudd, who I believe is struggling as our Prime Minister, and who represents a political position the furthest from what conservative Christians would consider acceptable, was the man who delivered a message of “a future and hope” to the Australian people. His election was to have spelled a new day for Australia. That is yet to be seen, but at least that was the tone and content of his campaign message.
Likewise, in the United States, John McCain and Sarah Palin were considered the next-best-thing for America so far as Christian conservatives were concerned, but all I heard these two candidates do was whine, complain and personally attack Barak Obama. Meanwhile, Obama used the language of “a future and hope” with the American people, and his language so struck a chord with people.
So much so, that commentators and national leaders alike were referring to his win as being like a “Joshua generation” entering the Promised Land. (That quote, by the way, comes from an episode of Dateline with George Negus on Australian television station SBS.)
In fact, in the few days following his election win, the Israeli Prime Minister said that “Obama is not only President of the United States, he is the President of the free world” …
Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, .. praised Barack Obama as “young, beautiful and "tanned" and said the world saw him as a messiah” (a quote from News Corporation) …
… and I find that both telling and disturbing.
In essence, John Howard, Peter Costello, John McCain and Sarah Palin, who should have known better, all used the language of the world. While both Kevin Rudd and Barak Obama used the language of the church and won the hearts of their respective nations!
Whether they know it or not, people’s hearts deeply long for something that resonates within. Sure, they care about the externals .. Work Choices, mortgage interest rates, etc. But when it comes down it, if there is resonance on the inside, they will follow.
But in both the Australian and the US elections, the ones who SHOULD have been bringing a message of hope were the ones complaining, undermining and character assassinating. While the ones you would least expect to do so, spoke right to the hearts of a nation .. because they used the language of the church!
And I wonder if that isn’t a telling indictment on us, the church, today.
Is it that we have forgotten who we are and who we are meant to be, that we too, like the last little girl, are becoming “good for nothing” so far as the world is concerned?
Or is it that we stand on the threshold of an amazing opportunity to recapture the language of “a future and hope” in order to truly tap in to the hearts of our nations once again. We need to show who we really are … and stop just showing-off what we have.
There is a legendary story about a time when Saint Thomas Aquinas went to meet with the Pope of his day. Upon arriving at the Vatican, Thomas found the Pope busy in the Treasury, surrounded by gold, riches and majestic architecture. Upon realising Thomas was present, the Pope said, “Look Thomas! Never again will we have to say ‘silver and gold have I none’.” To which Saint Thomas Aquinas replied, “Yes, and never again will we be able to say ‘rise and walk in Jesus’ name’!”
… Part 2 follows in a few days …