PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: Remain a “Child of Pure Unclouded Brow and Dreaming Eyes of Wonder”. By: Ron Woodrum
Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian writer was one of the greatest writers of all time. His books, such as Crime and Punishment; the Brothers Karamazov; the Idiot; Notes from Underground; Poor Folk; The House of the Dead; and others are still read by devoted literary fans. After escaping execution and living out his sentence in a Russian prison, he embraced Christ as Savior, through the reading of the gospel story in a New Testament given to him. He wrote a letter to the woman that had given him the New Testament stating that though he was a “child of unbelief and doubt up to this moment, and I am certain that I shall remain so to the grave” he also wrote of his love for Christ, and wrote, “I have formulated my creed…all is clear and holy to me…extremely simple…here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper or more rational and more perfect that the Savior. I say to myself with a jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but there can be no one. I would even say more -if anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ rather than the truth!” In his book The Idiot, Dostoevsky explains his own conversion, describing it through the words of Prince Myskin when he sees a painting by Hans Holbein depicting Christ-dead in the tomb: He writes, “Looking at that painting might cause one to lose his faith…yet it is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light; then it is revealed as faith in Christ’s steadfast love for us, a love capable of embracing death to bring us salvation. This love, which did not recoil before death, in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to trust myself to Him completely “.
After being pardoned from execution by Nicholas I, not only was he converted, but vowed that since he didn’t have to die that he would “turn every minute into an age, nothing would be wasted…life is a gift…every minute can be an eternity of happiness“. Being pardoned by the Czar and finding Christ. What more do you need to “live happily ever after?” The truth of the matter is that Dostoevsky did not live happily ever after in Christ. He eventually drifted into gambling. He soon found himself drinking-and soon fell into alcoholism. He became the poster-child for a Christian who loses his first love for Christ and finding out the truth of the Savior’s warning that the slippery slope of waning passion would result in the extinguishing of the candlestick of Christian testimony. That slope is not far from the path we all travel. How do we prevent that tragedy from becoming our reality too?
Jesus warned us about letting the pure passion of being new in Christ slip away. There is something in the perspective of a child that is vital for growth and life. Lewis Carroll, in his book Through the Looking Glass, identifies this attribute as “a pure unclouded brow and the dreaming eyes of a child“. C.K. Chesterton spoke of this in his book Orthodoxy. He called this childlike faith an “elephantine pursuit of the obvious“. He illustrated this attribute by describing the never-waning enthusiasm of the child for exciting adventure. He writes “Children always say-‘Do it again!’ and the grown up does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do It Again’ to the sun; and every evening ‘Do It Again’ to the moon; It may not be automatic necessity that makes daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we“. The loss of our child-like first love causes us to become bored with God and spiritual things too soon. Then our attention is turned to lesser things. Ron Hansen says, “God gives us just enough to seek Him, but never enough to fully find Him“. His goal is to keep the excitement of ever increasing joy and excitement and novelty with each new experience. Meister Eckhart also described this when he wrote, “The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love; but if the soul cannot yet feel this longing, then it must long for the longing. Too long for the longing is also from God“. Clyde Kilby, Literature teacher at Wheaton College says that the losing of this awe-inspiring first love is a casualty of the fall-“The fall of man can hardly be more forcefully felt than simply in noting what we all do with a fresh snowfall or the first buds of spring. On Monday they fill us with delight and meaning and on Tuesday we ignore them. No amount of shouting to us that this is all wrong changes the fact for very long…only some aesthetic power which is akin to God’s own creativity has the capability for renewal, for giving us the power to see“.
Paul wrote to young Timothy about what to do if he found that this first love, this child-like passion, this daily excitement and awe with our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ has faded from a red-hot flame to a white ash-what do we do? Paul said, “Stir it up again“. The word is a compound Greek word. It is made up of four different parts. Ana-“again”; zoe-“to live”; pur-“fire”; ein-present infinitive means “keep on stirring“. When you realize the flame has died down; before it goes out- stir those ashes back to life; again and again; billowing it into a glowing and growing flame! That can be done anywhere; anytime; by anyone! It must be done to keep our first love alive.
At a conference on evangelism sponsored by Billy Graham in Manila, a Cambodian man mesmerized the audience with his story of daily meditation. Under the Pol Pot regime he was held in a concentration camp like those depicted in the movie The Killing Fields. Believing he had little time to live, he wanted to spend time each day with God, preparing for death. “Even more than deprivation of food, even more than the torture, I resented having no time to meet with God. Always guards were yelling at us, forcing us to work, work, and work.” Finally he noticed that the guards could get no one to clean out the cesspits. He volunteered for the wretched job. No one ever interrupted me, and I could do my work at a leisurely pace. Even in those stinking depths, I could look up and see blue sky. I could praise God that I survived another day. I could commune with God undisturbed, and pray for my friends and relatives all around me. That became for me a glorious time of meeting with God“. That’s how you keep the first love alive and glowing. Do you love God enough to pay that price to have uninterrupted communion with Him?