Oh, that we might know the LORD!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.
I am afraid of death. I don’t mean in the buried-six-feet-under sense. Rather, I am afraid of dying by way of the American dream: to wake up some day in a life so comfortable that I have forgotten my dreams. Perhaps I’d be happy – enough, anyway. But I fear that in some important way I’d no longer be seeking after a life that is truly meaningful.
I imagine that I’m not the only one at Williams who is afraid of a slow death by complacency. Part of this, I think, has to do with our desire for intellectual gain. We are taught here to hunger and thirst after knowledge, fostering a quality Samuel Johnson names genius: “a mind active, ambitious, and adventurous, always investigating, always aspiring; in its widest searches still longing to go forward, in its highest flights still wishing to be higher; always imagining something greater than it knows, always endeavoring more than it can do.” Always there is more to be found: thus we are perpetually in quest for more profound knowledge in still further realms.
I think we all possess this desire – but I wouldn’t call it genius, for I do not believe that it is at its heart an intellectual hunger. Academia, seemingly limitless to us, is yet but finite. Instead, in the Christian worldview, our deepest desire is to “know the LORD,” who is eternal. To know the eternal God is hardly imaginable: we may press on to the knowledge of him for the rest of time and eternity and find that there is still more to know. And yet he is near. If we would but seek him we would find him and, indeed, know him: for his coming is as sure as the dawn. Thus the paradox is that eternity both lies within our grasp and yet is an ever-moving, forever desirable destination. Our hearts’ hunger is ever being filled and ever being deepened – to our great joy.
At the end of the day, our desire to find that which is everlasting is a fundamental part of our humanity: “The LORD has set eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We will never be satisfied with the temporal because we were created for what is eternal. And even though we are always in eminent danger of ‘settling’ for less each day, we are saved from complacency by the eternal God himself.
Shirley Li is the 2012-13 editor-in-chief of The Williams Telos. This piece was excerpted from the Spring 2013 issue, Eternity.
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