The title of Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction has its origins in a quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Raised in a Christian family, Nietzsche turned to atheism and later surprisingly wrote, “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results . . . in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”
When I was a young believer in Jesus, I was encouraged to keep a thanksgiving journal. It was a little booklet I carried with me as a means to capture the daily happenings that filled my heart with gratitude. Sometimes I would pen my thanks items at the end of the week, following a time of reflection.
Abe lived in a country that was closed to the message of Jesus. We became friends in the first month I lived there, and he soon asked me to teach him the Bible. He gave his life to Christ during our second Bible study, and he eagerly devoured whatever I could teach him.
Soldiers who have fought together will tell you that the relational bond they share with their fellow soldiers is incredibly strong. In fact, some veterans report that the friendships they share with fellow veterans, although different in character, are as important to them as the relationship they have with their spouse. This doesn’t minimize the importance of marriage, but points to the depth of friendships forged in the crucible of sacrifice.
In Britain we love to talk about the weather. We talk about it with people we know and with those we’ve just met. The subject is raised at the start of business meetings and over the dinner table. Sometimes touching on the weather is merely an icebreaker, a way to start or develop a conversation. Often, however, it’s merely a way of being somewhat friendly, but at the same time avoiding any real intimacy, depth of relationship, or feeling of commitment. So discussing whether it’s sunny or rainy keeps us at a distance but extends a form of friendliness.
We have two 5-month-old puppies that are energetic and love to explore. Azusa, the female, is the one filled with true wanderlust. Seymour simply becomes her partner in crime when he tries to keep up in a wild game of chase. From the same litter, they sleep together, eat out of the same bowl, and nestle against each other for comfort. Seymour’s affinity to follow his sister out the door, however, shows that misplaced loyalty can lead one astray.
The Bible is not propaganda. Unlike some governments that share only positive reviews, Scripture records the words of people who are frustrated with God. Psalm 44 begins by remembering conquests that inspire trust in Him. “O God . . . our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day. . . . You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free” (Psalm 44:1-2). The psalmist concluded, “You are my King and my God” (Psalm 44:4).
Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.
One of our favorite family vacation sites is a beautiful beach community located in an adjoining state. We like to go there during the “off season” when few tourists are around. Though the ocean water is a little chilly, we enjoy swimming in an indoor pool. Also, there’s a lazy river that surrounds the pool and holds a special appeal for our kids. They’ve tried to swim against its current over the years, only to be carried in the opposite direction.
Christmas cards and nativity scenes depict the wise men visiting the Christ-child. But I think the story is bigger than the way it’s presented. The wise men’s journey is also a paradigm for our spiritual journey.
Near the climax of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a villain shoots Indiana’s father to motivate the distressed son to enter a booby-trapped temple and retrieve the Holy Grail. “The healing power of the Grail is the only thing that can save your father now,” he said. “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.” I deplore what the evil man did, but he was on to something: What we believe determines what we do.