March has been a bit crazy for me thus far. I am on the final push to finish my master's thesis, have to decide where to do a PhD in fall, am busy building an academic CV (presenting, publishing, applying for awards, etc.), and trying to fit in a normal healthy life with family and friends and a faith community. Oh, and insert coursework, lecturing on occasion, and some research on monasticism that is fun, but never-ending. In the past week, I came across two principles that made me sigh with relief and say a hearty YES at the same time, because they reminded me where this is all going and how it needs to happen. In case someone else needs help with those two things as well, I write about them here:
I don't need to promote myself. I heard this advice from a musician who works mostly in the church, but I find that this principle resonates very deep within me in my current setting. It affirms that I don't need to build the perfect CV (which lists all my incredible accomplishments that are supposed to make your jaw drop) or make sure I network with the best people or pursue the programs that have the best reputation. Though these things are considered necessary and important in order to position myself for really impressive learning opportunities and lucrative job offers, they guarantee nothing. And to be honest, I don't trust my future to them; only one is worthy of that kind of trust, and that is God.
I want to point my life in the direction of Jesus, and when I do that, my steps will fall into place, because pursuing God always leads to the best outcome (not easiest, but best). Whatever is God's good will become my good. The goal is not a great career; the point is to live my life as a friend of God, and anything I do with God is always a good adventure. It is also good to remember this in every area of my creative ventures, be it blogging, photography, music, giving talks, or drama. I don't need to promote myself. It has always felt awkward to me, anyway. I would much rather spend my energy developing my ability to follow Jesus. The pay-off is much better.
We are made for journey in a direction. Today in class we were talking about good and evil (always an interesting topic). In discussing Augustine's take on this, it was brought out that he believed too much weight was given to evil when we present it as the antithesis of good. The two do not have equal power; evil is not the yang to God's yin. Instead, Augustine saw all evil as a distortion of good. What this implies is that evil cannot exist on its own; it was not created and has no creative power - it is simply a distortion. Whatever is pointed in the direction of God is good; it is what all of creation was made to do. Whenever anything gets off target (sin basically means "missing the mark"), it becomes evil, because it is pointed towards a purpose other than God's purpose.
Everything God created was made to move. We are all built for journey and pilgrimage, geared to orient ourselves to an object and move in that direction; we are not static beings. We move towards an object of affection or interest or admiration or even hatred, but we move. And whatever we are oriented towards, wherever we point ourselves, that becomes the direction our lives take. We can develop great skill at hitting a target, but all our efforts can be futile or even very destructive if we are not facing in the right direction. These two principles have clarified some major choices in my life lately. All the stuff of life can appear so confusing and complex at times, but it really isn't. If I remember never to turn away from looking at Jesus and forget about promoting myself (it really never was my job), I will end up where I want to go. And that is good. Very good.
This is a photo of a gear clock that sits in my living room.