Monthly Archives: June 2013

Beauty. Breathtaking, Fleeting Beauty

How long has it been since you experienced beauty so intense and so transitory that it made your heart ache?

Friday evening I drove to Mechanicsburg for a meeting. It was a beautiful drive through rich Ohio farmland. The sky was blue, accented with great, fluffy white clouds. The fields were deep with color: tawny wheat surrounded by a complete palette of greens displayed in the corn fields, in the grass along the highway’s edge, and in the trees at the far edges of the fields.

But a little later when I started for home, oh, the difference! It was 7:35 on June 28th. The position of the sun, its angle at just that moment, was perfectly situated to bring the whole scene to perfect luminance, to life.  The scene came into sharp focus, each stalk of corn or wheat and each tree seemed to cry out to be seen. The panorama, bursting with intensity, took my breath away. And filled me with an aching desperation.

I felt I should take it all in – all – someone must, but that was impossible. I couldn’t absorb it all. I couldn’t see each detail; it was too much. It was too much for just one person. Someone else, many others, needed to see it just as I was seeing it. Perhaps each of us could capture a part of it and, collectively, the whole would be seen. But I was alone. It would be more real if another saw it, if there were others. A car approached me on the lonely road, but I don’t think the driver was looking.

I wanted to stop and drink it in, but there was no shoulder on which to pull over. I would have taken a picture, but I had no camera. Besides it would be futile; no camera could do it justice. Part of the ache came from its transience. It was perfection, but it would not stay, could not stay. It would change; the colors would fade into the muted hues of twilight and then into the deeper grays of night. In fact, it was already changing. What I was seeing was different than what was a moment before and what would be a moment from now. There was no way to capture it. If I stopped for five minutes to watch, what I saw then would be different. And if I came back the next night, or the next and the next and the next, to the same place at exactly the same time, it would never be this view. The sun would be in its approach to setting, the fields would be there, there might be the same cumulus clouds, but it wouldn’t be this scene. Even if I planned to be there next year at 7:35 on June 28th, it might be beautiful, maybe every bit as breathtaking, but it wouldn’t be this picture. It was there for that moment alone and for me alone to see. And then it was gone. I couldn’t save it for later. I could never look back at it again.

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Heroes?

We’ve seen lately, posted, shared, and re-shared on social media, stories of young people touted as heroes for “standing up for their faith” in their high school commencement ceremonies. Two I read this graduation season  submitted speeches to their schools for review then delivered different speeches altogether from what had been was approved.

One of them was Roy Costner, the valedictorian of his class at South Carolina’s Liberty High School. Roy submitted a speech for approval by the school. When he stood before the crowd on graduation day, however, he tore up his speech in front of the crowd and, instead, made a few comments about being raised in the Christian faith and then recited the Lord’s Prayer. The staff on the dais with Roy showed no reaction, but the crowd applauded and cheered as he recited. You can watch it here (or thousands of other places on the web): http://now.msn.com/lords-prayer-replaces-graduation-speech-for-valedictorian.

Another was Remington Reimer of Texas’ Joshua High School. He also prepared and submitted a speech which was approved by his school but, rather than delivering it, he gave a different speech, one expressing his faith in the life, death and atonement of Jesus Christ. When he deviated from the approved speech, his microphone was turned off (which was the policy explained to the student speakers ahead of time). You can watch Remington here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvzXCIhFWQ

On Facebook, these young men are lauded as heroes. I’ve no doubt their intentions are good, and I certainly share their beliefs, but I think we may have led them astray. I can’t see that what they did was heroic, or even Christian. I’m grateful they have a Christian faith that is important to them, but I wonder if they are representing well the faith they claim. Is it Christian to tell those in authority we will do one thing and then do another? Is it Christlike to agree in private to submit to authority, then defy them publicly? Would it not have been better for them to submit what they really wanted to say with all references to their faith and to Jesus included. And then, if turned down by the administration could they not have declined to speak based on their convictions?

I admire the young men for wanting to speak of their faith at graduation. I acknowledge the foolishness of asking successful young people to share from what has shaped them into the people they are without letting them share the part faith plays in that shaping, but lying to those in authority undermines the very message the speakers want to convey. What about Jesus’ instruction to “let your yes be yes and your no, no”?

The reports I read from different sources mentioned that Roy Costner recited the Lord’s Prayer as a protest of his school district’s new policy banning religious prayer. Is the Lord’s Prayer something to be recited as a form of protest? Was he praying, or merely reciting something to make a point? If the people in the crowd were as enthusiastic in their support as they seemed, why did they yell and cheer rather than to pray along with him? It almost seemed to be more about defying authority than about praying.

These young men are being lauded as heroes of the First Amendment, crusaders for free speech and the free exercise of religion. Costner says, ” I want to emphasize that everyone should be free to say what they want. Just because I prayed to my God doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t allowed to pray to who they want or say what they believe. We should all have free speech.” (Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/interview-valedictorian-roy-costner-iv-on-ripping-up-his-approved-speech-reciting-lords-prayer-97552/#SeH2WkPkW7qT5Rcg.99) But can schools really allow students to stand at commencement ceremonies and say anything they want? Is that practical? There is no limit to where that could go. This isn’t a public forum for exchanging ideas. It is a school event honoring the graduating class and conferring their diplomas.

I, too, am concerned about the increasing restriction on the verbal expression of the Christian faith in our society. It frightens me at times. But I wonder, if our time and energy would be better spent “living out our faith” rather than “standing up for our faith”, and teaching our kids to do the same. We, and these young men, are free to do that.

There is no restriction on walking in the Spirit; no government on earth can regulate that. Many have tried; none have succeeded. These graduates have been free throughout their 13 years in public school to live out their Christian faith. They have been free to let their light shine among men. They’ve been free to befriend the student who always eats alone in the cafeteria and to offer to pray for the one who is sick or hurting. They have been free to refuse to cheat on their work when it seemed everyone was taking the easy way out. They’ve had complete liberty to treat their classmates and teachers with respect. And they were free to submit to the authority of the school concerning graduation speeches or to respectfully decline if their convictions wouldn’t allow them to do so.

Their defiance makes good Youtube viewing, but I wonder if it speaks well for their faith or represents well the Savior they purport to honor. Your thoughts?