Lenten Devotional for Wednesday, March 18

Psalm 81, Jeremiah 2:4-13, John 7:14-31, 37-39

A couple of my friends throw pottery (in the creative, rather than destructive, sense).  Imagine their joy at seeing someone use a pitcher they made to carry water and pour it out where most needed.

But what if they look up at the dump and find their pitcher amongst the other rubbish—a pitcher that was carefully and lovingly made, that was beautiful and useful, and should still be so?  Imagine their hope-tinged pain as they picked it up, wanting to take it home and mend it.  And once they have, the joy of hope repaid.

But what if the pitcher chose to be broken?  If, instead of the pleasure of fulfilling its purpose, it gave up its purpose and decided to be useless?

Alexis de Tocqueville talks about the informal social institutions Americans had, institutions which developed the “habits of heart and mind” that “fit us to be free.”  When we limit ourselves appropriately, then we no longer require outside restraint.  It is the difference (or should be) between a child and an adult.  A child cannot usually be trusted to restrain their desires—to have vegetables rather than cake for dinner.  An adult should be able to make that choice (or at least, that’s what my mom keeps telling me.)  We have certainly lost many of those habits of heart and mind, ones that let us accept limitations on our self to leave some scope for others—and we see the results.  Democracy is not something we have, but something we do, choices we make.

Likewise, a Christmas carol asks Jesus to “bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.”  Our belief is not a trophy or a plaudit, something hung on a wall and dusted, but a seed planted by our Creator, one meant to reshape our habits of heart and mind, and thus our actions—to fit us for heaven, by making us more resemble its King and our Father.  We can choose to let Him mend us, let Him fill us, and serve His purpose.  But it’s a choice we have to get in the habit of making, in heart and mind.

Nathan Griffin, Associate Professor

Political Science Department, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

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