Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Call for Original Thought

I often get the feeling that my brain is wasting away. In the midst of television shows, internet streaming, burned CDs in the van, small talk, cleaning, washing, and looking at news sites, my brain is being taken from a useful tool to a memory bank for snippy comments, sound bites, and trivial knowledge.

When I attend church, it is different. I suddenly remember not only that I have a brain, but that I should be doing something valuable with it. I don't get this conviction necessarily from prayer or even scripture reading, but from the knowledge that comes across the pulpit. Our Pastor preaches earnestly and in a way that grabs my attention and makes me want to use my brain again. It makes me want to study, to learn - not for other people's sakes, but solely for my own. This past Sunday he incorporated the idea of the French Revolution not spreading to England because of the work of what would later become the Methodist church - led by John and Charles Wesley. Incorporating this into a sermon takes study and thought. It can't be done haphazardly.

Over the past year much of what I thought I knew has been challenged. I realized that my faith was nothing without being tested. After all, who knows they will follow God during hard times, unless those hard times come? Peter thought he would stand firm...but we are all inclined to think a little better of ourselves than we ought. At times over the past couple of years I have had to take a scrutinizing look at what my faith was built around. It turned out that the majority of what I believed crumbled around my feet when faced with trials and intense questioning. Perhaps everything I thought I knew had to be tested so I could stand firm in what I do know: Christ and Him crucified.

Besides knowing and acting on my need for Christ, I also have a need to use my brain. The feeling that I am wasting a resource or squandering a tool is stronger at certain times than others. At times I am satisfied with repinning a sarcastic thought, watching Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey argue, or dully scrolling through home improvement ideas with a judgement reserved for everyone but myself. At other times I force myself to think about C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, or Tolkien and I get very disappointed with myself. I won't presume that I could reach their standards of original thought and astute observations about and of human nature. I would, however, like to think for myself. I would like to cleanse my brain of foolishness and hypocrisy for long enough to have an original thought. I would like to think critically for a change.

I think this end result will require some time of prayer, study, reflection, and perhaps most importantly, silence. I believe being still and silent is one of the hardest things to do in our culture. It is often preached that our country has it so much better than other countries. It's assumed that since we have lots of food and luxuries, that serving God is inherently easier. I don't believe this is true anymore. We don't need to apologize for our circumstances. We didn't place ourselves in them. We do, I think, need to realize that every country, every people has their own struggles. We all have faith roadblocks. For some it may be lack of food. For some it may be a culture that allows awful things to happen to innocent people. For some it may be persecution for even having a Christian faith. For a lot of us here, it is distraction. Everywhere we turn there is something to see, read, look at, laugh at, and consume. External stimuli is overwhelming in this country. All people, worldwide, have their own hindrances and reasons for being doubtful, distracted, or distrustful. We all have tests of faith. Since I am an American, I can only speak to my own struggles. I am distracted and a consumer.

I desire to have original thoughts. I desire to be deeper than the surface. I have a desire to reflect, to study, and to think.


“What do you fear, lady?" [Aragorn] asked.
"A cage," [Éowyn] said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

― J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King

"Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings." 
— Jane Austen (Mansfield Park)

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." 
— C.S. Lewis

"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." 
— C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses)

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