A Friendly Reminder Regarding Your Efforts… and God’s

I woke up this morning, early, with my mind abuzz – plans, projects, things! What am I going to do to get 2018 off on the right foot?

After getting out of bed, greeting my wife, and making coffee, I headed to my study to pray. My psalm reading this morning was Psalm 105. Eugene Peterson captures the early verses of the psalm so well:

Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works;
    be alert for signs of his presence.
Remember the world of wonders he has made…

That gave me pause. Here is the work of spiritual formation – deepening our awareness of God and his work.

I’ve been reading Jamie Smith’s analysis of the work of the great philosopher and cultural commentator Charles Taylor. Taylor argues that our modern age suffers from an acute sense of “disenchantment.” We, unlike the ancients, no longer see the universe we live in as shot through with glory, peopled at every level by the invisible, the supernatural. Instead, we see the universe rather like a machine. Dead, vacant, mostly empty. It is a lonely and bleak place to live.

This is in stark contrast to the biblical universe. In it God and his invisible host are everywhere, and always at work, fashioning wonders beyond our efforts; wonders indeed beyond our reckoning.

The biblical universe is fundamentally enchanted, full of mystery and meaning.

Taylor goes on to argue that the situation of our modern age impacts not just unbelievers but believers. Disenchantment has seeped into the air and water. It is our environment. The natural habit of the modern mind, even believing modern minds, is to see the universe as a self-contained totality that brackets out mystery and meaning. If there is meaning, we must make it. It comes from us.

Speaking from my own personal experience, I think Taylor is right. In the midst of my early morning musings about all I wanted to do this year, it occurred to me how easily my hopeful planning for the future all of a sudden becomes the whole show, and I begin to behave as though nothing good will happen unless I make it happen. Everything, accordingly, depends on me, and pretty soon the hopeful planning becomes a crushing weight, a relentless taskmaster, under which I cannot rest or delight or enjoy.

The biblical mindset is so very different. There we are invited into a work that precedes us and will outlast us. Our Father has been at his work since the very beginning of time, and we are given, during our outrageously brief time here on earth, a share in it. None of our shares are the largest or the most important parts, and–importantly–none of our inheritance depends on the size of our share in the work, for our inheritance in the future that God is bringing is, simply, all that belongs to our Father: namely, everything. The world is ours and will be ours because it was and is and always will be his. At the first and the last entirely his. And the meek, not the powerful or the exceptionally skilled or the people whose lives are comprehensively planned, shall inherit the earth.

We are invited to be children in our Father’s house. That is good news to my soul.

It is not, of course, that our plans and efforts are unimportant. Surely they are. But there is more, much more, to the story. Our Father is at work. And we too are working, within the boundaries assigned to us. And our work, let us remember, is a drop in the ocean of the total and all-embracing effort of his kindness. Our world is enchanted. There is more going on than what we see.

This year, I want to be as attuned to that as I can, so that I can see as much of his work as he will allow (if for no other reason than the sheer awe of it), and then trust him utterly with what I cannot; which, obviously, is the largest part.

This, I think, will help me avoid falling into the idolatry and bondage of trusting in my own efforts, and give me the space to live in a fully, truly human, kind of way.

Enchantment. That’s the best place to live. So we say again, with the Psalmist:

Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works;
    be alert for signs of his presence.
Remember the world of wonders he has made…

Amen.

  • Great post Andrew. The concept reminds me of a verse I recently came across in Habakkuk. The prophet has been describing the conquest of the Babylonians but ends with this…

    “They sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty, for their own strength is their god.””
    ‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭

    How easily we can look to our own strength and ignore God’s.

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