So, Selayna has had a beast of a schedule over the past month. When I talked to her on Monday she was confident that she would get her posts done this week. Then Monday was so busy that she promptly forgot to write Tuesday’s post, and Tuesday was so busy that she promptly forgot to write anything. I can understand this conundrum.
So, unfortunately you’re stuck with me for today. I’ll apologize in advance for the random nature of this post. At the moment I’m listening to a panel discussion from a few months ago out of Summit Church that includes Dr. Bruce Ashford, Ph.D. Candidate Chris Pappaladoro, Walter Strickland, and J. D. Greer on the intersection of faith and politics. The discussion has ranged from whether there are any political or economic systems that are simply incompatible with Christian thought to John Rawl’s original position to questions of human anthropology. Earlier today I started reading Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids, last Wednesday night I led a small group discussion on Ephesians 4:17-19 (Paul’s definition of the ‘gentile’ or unbeliever) and this coming Wednesday I’m going to be leading a small group discussion on Ephesians 4:20-24 (Paul’s exhortation to a new life), I’ve been keeping up with a fairly academic discussion of Confucianism in a facebook group that I’m a part of, thinking about a paper on natural law and Christian political engagement that I’m editing, reading Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, and waiting (and hoping) to hear back from both Georgetown and Southeastern with acceptances.
So, all of this is what is bouncing around my mind (along with ways to make my wife’s night special) as I’m writing this post. This is the conclusion that I’ve come to at the moment: life is hard. Not hard as in bad, but hard as in complicated, difficult, confusing, and often overwhelming. Our best days are often quite different from our worst days, both in how we treat people, what we manage to get done, and the quality of what we do. There are a hundred million questions that need to be asked, and we generally think to ask about 2,000 of them, and we manage to answer perhaps 50 of those relatively well. I’m a fairly intelligent guy. I’m hoping to be accepted to three different Ph.D. programs (I’ve been accepted to one), and to have some choices there. I earned high marks in a difficult masters program, and I earned very high scores on the writing and language sections of the GRE and average scores on the Math section of the GRE. I’m widely read in a variety of different fields and have a very large vocabulary in one language and smaller vocabularies in several other languages. I say all of this to point out that when I say that life is hard I’m talking from the position of a generally intelligent, well-rounded, and capable individual. With all of my study and qualifications, God consistently brings me back to Ecclesiastes 1:14-18 (and chapter 7).
I don’t have what it takes to answer the questions that life brings, or to handle the sheer number of questions that need to be answered. There are so many possible positions and so many good arguments for a lot of them. I often come to a point of feeling confident about what I think and believe about some important issue (such as whether a democratic republic is a workable and beneficial political system) only to read something that bring new questions into view that draw my beliefs back into the ring. That being said, if I have one piece of advice for any and everyone else out there, I believe that it is profoundly important to recognize and realize the things that are truly important and the things that can be open questions. Augustine argued that God is due our first love (focus or priority) and Thomas Aquinas argued that God is the only truly meaningful and satisfying end (or goal) of life. Much of the advice I see for people in their late teens and twenties today is to focus on their education and career goals, to get their resumes straight, and set the stage for their financial and vocational lives. I am convinced that this is a profound mistake. The best thing that young people can focus on is the depth, focus, intensity, and importance of their spiritual lives. An individual’s relationship with God should be the driving force of everything else in their lives, and it is the only thing that lasts beyond this life. Further, the spiritual life of the individual is the groundwork for their emotional, financial, vocational, and familial lives. A strong spiritual life can and inevitably does seep through into these other areas. Further, a strong spiritual life will result in a strong moral life. In fact, if you know a person who claims or seems to be spiritually deep and mature, but shows a morally corrupt character (I don’t mean that they are less than perfect, but that they show a deep-seeded moral corruption that results in immoral actions that they attempt to justify and refuse to recognize as wrong) then the character of this individual should throw the depth of their spiritual life into question.
The fact is that none of us have all of the answers that we need for life. In fact, none of us even knows all of the right questions to ask. However, if we have the most important and most influential things in place, then we have a strong foundation to rely on for the rest. More than this, when we recognize that we are not this foundation, but that God is this foundation then we have the beginning of a wisdom that is not simply futile.