We are perhaps never more aware of our pace through life, as we are at the year’s end. It is a time when I realize how full the year has been; how many things have happened in such a seemingly short time. Life seems to become more and more compressed and time itself seems to bend as the months slide by, like a sleigh ride down a hill that gets steeper and steeper. And yet despite all the speed and the clutter of happenings, one of the frustrating facts that seems to hit me every year is ME. Although the scenery around me is in constant flux, I find over and over that I am still very much the same weak me that I was before.
There come times when it seems like the speed of progress in life is turned up a few notches. We face many new horizons. The road gets steeper, exposing new valleys and new peaks. These are times when we are pushed out of autopilot mode and forced to be a bit more conscious of our pace and direction. We can stroll down the road, or we can run it. We can take the road down or the road up. The mountains seem exciting when viewed from far away. But when it comes time for making the ascent, the glory seems to vanish. Aching muscles. Bloody bruises. Burning lungs. Sweat and dirt.
We start to realize that the climb itself is not as glorious as we imagined.
By far, my favorite season of the year is fall. Summer comes to a close, with all its freedoms and adventures. Nature sheds its green coat in a period of glorious golden surrender and gears up for another trek through the winter. Another year comes our way.
It is simultaneously the season of reward and renewal. We reap the fruits of our labors. We look back at our work. We set new directions and begin new chapters. It is a time of vibrant colors, flavors and warm conversations. More than any other time of year, fall seems to be the time that causes me to reflect on the reality of progress and movement in my life.
Progress is something that I think about a great deal. Nothing is more terrible to me than the notion of a wasted life, of wasted opportunities. Here are two mighty lessons I have learned lately on this issue.
There is an ancient teaching called Gnosticism which has, throughout the centuries, constantly sought to wriggle itself into the life of the church. At its essence, the idea is that there is a fundamental division between the spiritual and the physical. The Gnostic believes that he is saved by the possession of special knowledge. The physical world however, along with the body, is fallen and beyond saving or repair.
Many variations of this idea have surfaced and resurfaced in the history of christianity, with each following version tending to be more and more subtle and sneaky. And our day is indeed no exception¹. But how can this be so?? Don’t we live in a day of peak theological growth? Before a false teaching even appears, we already have a good book published on the issue! We have hundreds of sermons, articles, websites and magazines being put out every week defending and defining the Gospel of Jesus!
We live in a world that is always in conflict, and physical war is only the tip of the iceberg. At it’s essence, the warfare that permeates our societies and cultures is a warfare of ideas. Moreover, this is not a war that you can fight for others, or protect others from. Every persons mind is a battlefield on its own. And its a battlefield they alone can man. Anyone with a mind is both a potential weapon and potential target. We are all in it whether we like it or not.
The battlefield of the mind is perhaps both the most powerful and most vulnerable kind. Ideas dictate the rise and fall of history. The greatest triumphs and tragedies have all arisen from individuals deeply gripped by worldviews and ideas, individuals who have sought to live out that which they firmly believed to be true.