Thursday, April 10, 2014

Vocation and Hindsight I: Beauty

Recently, on the Lamb's War, Micah wrote (at about how difficult it can be discern what is truly important in any moment or season of life: it is often only in looking back that what really mattered--or what God's plan was--becomes apparent to us.
    I sometimes look back and try to make sense of my life, and one of my puzzles is trying to understand the tangled knot of my working career(s) or why it has taken me so long to find my vocation, and I believe I have one answer. I also can hardly complain about my strange career paths: I have had a rich and varied life.
     When Roger and I took a trip to Italy in the mid-2000s, and I saw Florence again for the first time in 25 years,  it hit me very powerfully  that when I was 20, I fully believed I would bump into Florences around every corner, that the world was awash in such wonders. I took Florence for granted, and used it carelessly, though innocently. Returning in my 40s, I realized, in contrast, what a comparatively rare gift Florence is, how extraordinary it is, and how important it is to fully appreciate power of extraordinary places and people.
     This reminded me of a very powerful memory I have of being on the Johns Hopkins campus for a graduate school interview. In the end, they offered only tuition and no stipend and no teaching assistantship as a first year student, and I accepted instead a full scholarship with stipend to attend George Washington University to study international relations (a mistake) and eventually ended up doing graduate work in literature at University of Maryland, which offered, financially, a full ride. I want to note for the record, too, that these opportunities were much more abundant and far easier to access 30 years ago than now. In any case, what I remember was an extraordinarily powerful desire, while walking across the Hopkins campus the day of the interview, amid all the brick buildings, to be on such a campus as Hopkins, to stay in such a setting. I was emotionally atremble with it, which is why I remember it so distinctly. I should have listened to what the Quakers call that Inner Guide, but at that time I knew nothing of Quakers. So I repressed the feeling as ridiculous, overwrought and sentimental. But I now realize, that just as I thought that Florences were everywhere, I thought that other careers, other jobs, other paths, could bring me the same glorious and intense joy as academic pursuits. I did find joy as a journalist. But other career choices made me miserable, as the world is in general a mix of darkness and light, and we are all formed differently.  I only found that out through experience, just as I discovered there is not a Florence around every corner.
Light within or Inner Guide: to me the Holy Spirit

   We live in a society that does promise us that everything beautiful or desirable can be reproduced over and over, ad infinitum. Do you like the Mona Lisa? You can have 1,000 copies. Or a million! Or why stop there? Two million! Do you like Beethoven's Ode to Joy? You can listen to it, performed by the best orchestras in the world, over and over and over, every waking moment of every day of you life. Enjoy Picasso? You can buy wallpaper, curtains, shower curtains, note cards, napkins printed with Picassos. Tired of your friend or spouse: You can find a new one from the many endless models out there. No wonder I thought I would encounter Florences everywhere.
    Isn't it more about class and privilege that I am able to wax eloquent over
the beauties of Florence? Didn't I simply go, like any tourist, and consume the Florence "experience?" Is this not effete, the stuff of parody? Don't I understand the oppression and injustice it took to build such a city?
    Yes; yes and no; possibly; and yes.
    As for my yes and no on tourism, when I visited the city at 17 and 20, it was about consuming an experience. I can remember wanting to race from the Botticellis to Michaelangelo's David to buying jewelry. Undoubtedly, I did some of that on my return trip in my 40s. But on the return trip, it was less about seeing and doing and more about simply being in the city. I can remember feeling content. Unlike your average consumer experience, it didn't leave me wanting more. Although we did do some touristy things, I was satisfied simply to sit on a stoop with Roger or walk around the streets, not needing to take from the city as much as appreciate it. Although no doubt built on human suffering, as all cities are,  I understood it as a place than cannot simply be reproduced like the waterfront tourist mall, with its obligatory tourist shop, Starbucks and Cheesecake Factory.
     What I underestimated when I was younger was that when you find joy and love and affinity, these are rare, not endlessly replicable, and you must cling to them with all your heart and soul and mind. You can't simply interchange them with something else, which is a truth about vocation it has taken me a long time to recognize. Not surprisingly, my happiest, ie most content, memories are of the simplest, most mundane things.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...


The prevailing thought of many is that since the Bible was not canonized until sometime between 300 and 400 A.D. that the church of Christ did not have New Covenant Scriptures as their guide for faith and practice. That is simply factually incorrect.

The Lord's church of the first 400 years did not rely on the man-made traditions of men for New Testament guidance.

Jesus gave the terms for pardon 33 A.D. after His death and resurrecting. (Mark 16:16) All the words of Jesus were Scripture.Jesus did not have to wait for canonization of the New Testament in order for His word to be authorized.

The terms for pardon were repeated by the apostle Peter 33 A.D. on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-42) The teachings of the apostles were Scripture. The words of the apostles were Scripture before they were canonized.

The apostle Peter said the apostle Paul's words were Scripture. (2 Peter 3:15-16...just as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures...

The apostle Paul's letters and words were Scriptures when he wrote and spoke them. Paul did not have to wait for canonization to authorize his doctrine.

John 14:25-26 'These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all that I said to you.

The words and writings of the apostles were Scripture and they did not have to wait for canonization to be deemed authoritative. The apostle did not use man-made creed books of the church or man-made oral traditions to teach the gospel of the New Covenant.

Did the early church have written New testament Scriptures? Yes, and they were shared among the different congregations. (Colossians 4:16 When the letter is read among you, have it read in the church of the Laodiceans and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodica.) Paul's letters were Scripture and they were read in different churches.

They were New Testament Scriptures long before they were canonized.


Matthew A.D. 70
Mark A.D. 55
Luke between A.D. 59 and 63
John A.D. 85
Acts A.D. 63
Romans A.D. 57
1 Corinthians A.D. 55
2 Corinthians A.D. 55
Galatians A.D. 50
Ephesians A.D. 60
Philippians A.D. 61
Colossians A. D. 60
1 Thessalonians A.D. 51
2 Thessalonians A.D. 51 or 52
1 Timothy A.D. 64
2 Timothy A.D. 66
Titus A.D. 64
Philemon A.D. 64
Hebrews A.D. 70
James A.D. 50
1 Peter A.D. 64
2 Peter A.D. 66
1 John A.D. 90
2 John A.d. 90
3 John A.D. 90
Jude A.D. 65
Revelation A.D. 95

All 27 books of the New Testament were Scripture when they were written. They did not have wait until they were canonized before they became God's word to mankind.

Jesus told the eleven disciples make disciples and teach them all that He commanded. (Matthew 28:16-19) That was A.D. 33, They were teaching New Covenant Scripture from A.D. 33 forward. The apostles did not wait to preach the gospel until canonization occurred 300 to 400 years later.