The Chair and the Desk, 1/7/16

From the chair:

“But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

-Isaiah 43:1-2

This verse had never stood out to me until my professor, Jim Singleton, encouraged us to memorize us last spring. When I read it at the end of the class, the Princetonians informed me that it’s one of President Barnes’ most oft-quoted passages. I can see why. These are the promises we need: God is with us in the waters, and they will not drown us. The fire will not burn us or burn us up, because the LORD is our God.

From the desk:

“The four structural elements in the movement of embrace are opening the arms, waiting, closing the arms, and opening them again. For embrace to happen, all four must be there and they must follow one another on an unbroken timeline; stopping with the first two (opening the arms and waiting) would abort the embrace, and stopping with the third (closing the arms) would pervert it from an act of love to an act of oppression and, paradoxically, exclusion. The four elements are then the four essential steps of an integrated movement.”

-Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, p.141

Volf is talking about more than physical hugs here; he’s describing reconciliation. What does reconciliation require? An invitation of self-opening, a pause for the other person to choose a course of action, a pulling in and joining, a letting go and respecting. Without any of these things, our attempts at reconciliation actually become something else. With all these things, we must be witnessing the work of God.

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.


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