A Modern Violence

Today's Devotional Thought:

Ephesians 5:15-16: "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

I remember as a young boy being examined by a Doctor. He had a stethoscope. Lifting my shirt he put its cold metal to my chest and I looked on in obvious fascination. The Doctor perceiving my interest let me listen. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. There is something profound in hearing your own heartbeat, even for a little boy. Now as a middle-aged man I still remember that ker-chunk, ker-chunk. It has stayed with me all my life because in a very primal way it is my life. There is a number of ker-chunks that I get and I will get no less and no more. There is only One who knows my number, God, and when my number is up I will find myself standing before Him to give an account of what I did with those ker-chunks. The Bible says, "Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..." (Hebrews 9:27).

It may be a morbid thought but it is the motivation that undergirds a well-lived life. For the "days are evil," and we must redeem the time for good. Everyone who has ever lived to do great things for Christ, to become something great for God, lived with the sense of their limited ker-chunks. Not that the work is all ours but neither is it not ours. If life is a boat some view life as a row boat where they must do all the work to get ahead. They live life under their own power and always come up short. Others view life like a cruise ship where they do none of the work and God does everything. They love Ephesians 2:8-9, that salvation is a gift from God, not by works, but they stop reading before they get to verse 10, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." So, life is neither a row boat or a cruise ship but rather like a sail ship. It is up to us to raise the sails but it is the power of God's wind that moves us forward.

The well-lived life is a life lived under God's power but also lived wisely. It was Thomas Merton, writing in the 1960's, who described his day as a form of violence. He said, "There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence. The rush and pressures of modern life are a form of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, to succumb to violence ... The frenzy of the activist ... destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." [Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Image, 1968), page 81]. This was written well before iPhones, the Internet, Facebook, personal computers, and the proliferation of TVs. Merton may have been underestimating the rush and pressure and "innate violence" of our age. 

The wisdom then is a wisdom of priorities. Consider Japan. Japan will host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Ironically their initial designs for the National Stadium did not include a place for the Olympic flame. Such a glaring oversight further affirms what the late Stephen Covey (1932-2012) wisely wrote, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." [Time, 3/28/16, p.74; Primary Greatness, Stephen Covey, 2015, p.74] We must be wise not only in what we choose to do but also what we choose not to do.

Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. What will you do today? Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. It's time to raise the sail and see where God will take us.

Prayer: Holy Father, You who know the exact number of our ker-chunks. Our lives are Your gift to us. What we do with them is our gift to You. May You be pleased in how we raise our sails. May You fill those sails with Your power so we can redeem the time You give us. For Your glory, we live and we pray, in Jesus name, amen.