“Passing Through”

My friend Craig has a great post on the importance of connecting to places and people no matter what stage of life you may be in.  I have been a student in higher education for almost nine years now, and that means that for the last nine years I have been in successive stages of “passing through,” always looking forward to what’s coming up next.  As I near the end of my Ph.D. and begin the process of looking for a job, my tendency is to get so wrapped up in the future that I begin to miss the present.  Even worse, I begin to get so wrapped up in myself and in my own goals that I begin to miss the wonderful reality of otherness: other people, the external world, things that were here long before me and will be here long after I’m gone.  And it is simply impossible for me to have deep and abiding joy when I develop that kind of egotistical tunnel vision.

I have read two passages recently that have jolted me out of this narrow, “passing through” mindset.  One is from John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life:

The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.  Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological.  At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.  And each of these rare and precious moments in life–beside the Canyon, before the Alps, under the stars–is an echo of a far greater excellence, namely, the glory of God.

The other passage is from my friend Craig:

Of course there is nothing wrong with just passing through. There have been nomads from the beginning of time. In fact, the tendency to roam may, as a survival instinct, be more wired into our DNA than the tendency to stay. But I’ve often felt that the desire of some to always be looking to the next thing can be more of a refusal to admit that one day they will die.

I think about death a lot.  But I have never thought about it in this particular way.  What better cure for graduate student tunnel vision than the sober reality that my lifeless body will one day go under the ground, and I will stand before God to give an account of my life to him! 

Thank you, Dr. Piper, and thank you, Craig.  I needed to hear that.

(Read Craig’s post here.)

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4 Responses to ““Passing Through””

  1. mwmusicvt Says:

    Fenderpooh,
    Your comment about thinking about death brings to mind something that has weighed heavily in my life for the last eight months. In February of this year, we discovered a mass in my wife’s brain. The mass turned out to be a malignant brain tumor (called a pineal blastoma). At one point shortly after the surgery to resect the tumor, she was closer to death’s door than the surgeons may care to admit.
    Death has been at the forefront of my mind. And as much as I wish that day never come for my wife, it probably closer than we had ever imagined. The night of her surgeries, I got down on my knees in the chapel at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and asked the holy spirit to pray on my behalf. I knew that I didn’t have the words. What I wanted was to give all of my anxieties to God, what I was doing was selfishly clinging to my wife’s life.
    I know that death has no power over those who are in Christ Jesus and that thought never left my mind as I struggled through those first few days and weeks. Strangely, what I found to be most calming and meaningful was to praise God. I sought out psalms of praise and sang hymns of praise. It was a testimony to the “peace that surpasses all understanding”.
    I don’t have any sage advice for how to balance work with relationships and I suspect it’s something that none of us will ever get quite right. What I do know is that God is worthy of all our praise and our relationship with Him is the single most important relationship.
    My wife is doing well. Her tumor is currently in check after six weeks of radition in addition to the resection. We will learn more about it in another month or so. She had a very significant brain injury from the second surgery, however, and she has a long road of recovery to gain back all of the neuro pathways that were lost or damaged.
    God bless.
    MW

  2. fenderpooh Says:

    Thanks, Marc, for sharing that. I am thankful to hear that your wife is doing so well after such a scare. As I read your blog a week or two ago, I detected some references to her health problems, and I saw the link to caring bridge, so I figured it was cancer. I’m glad you shared the whole story with me as a testimony to God’s grace and wonder.

    I’m going to add you to my blogroll.

  3. Craig Says:

    Aaron,
    Thanks for the kind words.

    And thanks for being the first and probably the last person ever to put my and John Piper’s words in the same thought. 🙂

    Craig.

  4. Aaron Says:

    Craig, I thought you would marvel at that juxtaposition.

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