To make it in the punditry business, you have to draw lines in the stand and hold your ground. There’s no middle space in between for moderates. From sports to politics to religion, people want someone shouting out extremes. At least some people do, certainly not a “moderate” like myself, though. Which lets you know that I would never have made it as a pundit.
I find myself thinking these thoughts after reading brave, bold declarations by two great theologians. A couple of which I’d love to share with you today.
I remember being struck by Richard J. Foster’s thoughts on prayer in “Celebration of Discipline” the first time I read them years ago. It was one of those moments that caused me to stop and consider and reconsider and begin the whole considering process all over again. And again. Like a dog with a bad itch, I just had to keep searching and scratching and…
Foster writes, “Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.” I immediately wrote in the margins of my copy of the book, “Do I believe this?” Certainly if you looked at my life, if you studied the hours (or lack thereof) of my prayer time, the answer would come clear to you. Or maybe not so clear, actually. Because I really do think that I believe prayer is the most central, it’s just that my desire for “perpetual communion” isn’t exactly regularly focused on centering in on anything close to God. I am all too selfish, all too regularly. Which I’ve already written about before, so we’ll keep going.
Foster wrote with clarity and belief a big, bellowing statement. Not meditation or fasting or study or service or worship…but prayer. Prayer is the most central. Maybe it’s middle child syndrome, that whole peace-maker mentality, but I feel like I can sit here and argue for anything at any time. The ultimate defense lawyer. My Mother hates this about me. Most of the time, she just wants to complain about something that sucks in her life. She doesn’t want me to try to bring clarity and weight to the other side. She just wants me to agree with her and join her in the muck and mire. She wants some company. I wish someone would have explained that to me years ago about women.
So instead of defending any of the other spiritual disciplines, I find myself agreeing with Foster. Prayer must be the most central. Not just because he says so, not just because he defiantly throws it out there and leaves no room for argument. But because prayer is us boldly and bravely communicating with God. Face to face. In a way that is contrary to any and every other religion or thought out there. Relational interaction with the maker of the universe. Pretty big stuff going on there.
But the point of this post was not intended to be what Foster said, but how he said it. Which brings me now to Oswald Chambers.
There have been a few fruitful seasons in my life in which Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” has played a daily role. The past month has been one of those times. We recently gave this book out to our graduating high school Seniors, so I’ve had a copy on my desk for a while. Today, Oswald’s words cut through like a knife. The Holy Spirit was alive and prodding. Through another great declaration.
Chambers begins, “Drudgery is the test of genuine character.” And then he continues with this nugget, “The greatest hindrance in our spiritual life is that we will only look for big things to do. Yet, ‘Jesus…took a towel and…began to wash the disciples’ feet…’.”
The most, the greatest…these are large words. Written with conviction and certainty. The only thing I’ve ever been certain of in my life with great conviction is my great affinity towards and weakness for dark chocolate. Sorry wife. Sorry Jesus. Crap, that probably should’ve been in a different order. Oh well, at least you know where my real heart is on a regular basis.
But seriously, Chambers can write with honesty and truth that he knows the greatest hindrance in our spiritual life. And I can’t sit here and argue. I tried to play the part of the defense lawyer this morning, but I couldn’t even get there. Maybe it’s because I really, earnestly believe love and life is in the little things, maybe it’s because I’d been wrestling with putting a VIA post together for a month now but hadn’t felt the BIG inspiration for it, maybe it’s because I was stuck in the drudgery and was ready to get out. Whatever it was, I appreciated it. Greatly.
I can promise you something right here, right now, with all the punch and lack of panache only a pundit can provide, I’ll never be great at dropping loud, piercing, matter-of-fact, earth shattering, declarative bombs. And while the ones on TV that yap their mouths off louder than a baby crying in church will never actually speak in a volume that I can rightfully hear, I’m grateful for the force and forthright manner in which the Holy Spirit uses certain writers to speak certain truths into my heart.
I can hear them. And I can respond. Even if the response is something little. Like a blog post.