Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Meditation on a Graduation Card

My son recently received a card and gift for his High School graduation.  On the front of the card was a quote from Thoreau: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you've imagined."

While the kindness and remembrance of my son's graduation is much appreciated, the words of Thoreau are completely anti-Christian.  The problem with the words from Thoreau is their independence from God.  A Christian is not to follow his dreams or live the life he imagines.  A Christian is to follow Jesus Christ and his will as it is revealed in Scripture.  As the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

There is a dependence in the Christian life that is foreign to the wisdom of this world.  We are dependent creatures who depend on the only independent, Sovereign will in the universe.  As Revelation 4 says of the Lord, "you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

We are dependent because we are creatures.  God made us, and he sustains us.  As the Great King, our very breath and all our ways are in his hand (Dan. 5:23).  Our success or failure is determined by him.  We are not outside of his sovereign will for even a millisecond, so if we try to live independently of him, we truly are living an "imagined" life, and not the life that's really lived by his creatures in his world.

But what about Thoreau's notion of confidence---can we live confidently?  The only people who have good reason to be confident are those who have God as their Father because of Jesus Christ.  The whole world lies under God's judgment because of sin.  There is no promise for the unbeliever that his life will have a happy ending or that things will work together for his good.  The promise of Romans 8:28 is given to those who trust and love God and his Son.  The promise is given only to those who have taken the first step in doing God's will by accepting his beloved Son in their lives and submitting to his will.  Only the person who has trusted Christ as Lord and Savior can have a confidence grounded in reality.

But Thoreau's confidence is really an arrogance born of the belief that human beings are independent of God and free to live as they please.  Thoreau's confidence is at root the lie of the serpent in the garden, namely, that in choosing for oneself, right and wrong and how to live, one will be like God.  The serpent wanted human beings to live independently of the Lord, acting as though they were God, and they have ever since. But in the end, there is but one independent Being in the universe, and that is not us!  Therefore, the proper attitude is not arrogance but humility---the humility that sees our humble, but happy, place in God our Creator's world.  As the old Shaker song says, such a humility is accompanied by joy:
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
That place of love and delight is found in fellowship with the triune God.  We worship the Father through the Son and by the Spirit.  By receiving Jesus Christ, the gift of the Father to us, we may live in love and delight, for God is love and the source of all joy.  But God is also mighty, sovereign, the Giver, Sustainer and Ruler of life, and it is fitting for us to humble ourselves in his presence. 

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  Thoreau did not acknowledge that, but we should.

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