The Omega Edition
A time for every season.
Image by Jim Semonik from Pixabay
It was in my university days that the Lord sparked my intellect and gave me a ravenous appetite to know the truths of the faith. Thus began my fascination with Scripture and theology and church history, and until recently, I couldn’t read enough or absorb enough of the true, as in “the true, good, and beautiful.” Along the way I’ve bought, sold, and given away more books than could probably fill my current home.
It’s been an exhilarating journey. Nothing has been more exiting than discovering a new biblical insight, or grasping some fine point of theology, or learning about the great minds of the past. And of course, accompanying me on this journey was a passion to write, to share with others what I was learning. It began with Bible studies, then with sermons, and finally with a larger audience through articles, books, blogs, and newsletters.
Yet beginning last fall about this time, I found my passions slowly shifting. It was harder and harder to stay interested in theology books, and even the longish article would be a challenge to finish. It wasn’t that I was mentally or physically exhausted; the problem was that I found less and less material that sparked my desire to know more, and as I’ve mentioned in this newsletter, fewer and fewer insights and links that I thought worth sharing with others. The problem has only become more challenging as the months have rolled on.
I think one issue is that I am repeating myself. If there is nothing new under the sun, it’s more true that there seems to be nothing new in the mind of this writer. I wouldn’t want to spend the few years I have left saying the same things repeatedly. I’ve seen other writers do this, and it’s not a pretty sight. And then there is this: I’m seeing a new crop of writers and pundits who have so much worth saying, and say it with energy, passion, and creativity. No need for me to add to their fine work.
Some may suspect depression, but the facts don’t suggest it. I thought retirement would give me time to pursue all the passions I previously had no time for. Here’s the problem: Even with this new time I have been given, I still don’t have the space to pursue everything that interests me, so I’ve regretfully had to abandon some of those interests to pursue others. So rather than meloncholy (which, naturally, courses through me from time to time at this stage of life), I’m engaged in life in fresh ways.
If God is said to be Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, then life at its best is the pursuit of God as he manifests himself in truth, goodness, and beauty in the world. As noted above, for the last fifty years I’ve been pursuing truth, however inadequately. For the next fifteen—or as many as the Lord gives me—I think it’s time to give myself to beauty and goodness to the best of my abilities—guided and strenghthened, of course, by the steady hand of grace.
Goodness mostly takes the form of deepening my prayer life, but there are also moments when the Lord has helped me make progress in battling some life-long habitual sins. There is also the business of learning (still!) how to be a good husband, father, grandfather, and friend.
The pursuit of beauty has been even more absorbing. I find myself spending two-to-four hours a day in drawing and painting—and absolutely absorbed. This requires me to learn not only techniques, but to see the world in so much more detail and grandeur. This has been a remarkable season and I feel like, indeed, I’m perceiving the world afresh as God’s magnificent handiwork.
This is a long way of saying that I’m taking an extended sabbatical from writing, which includes the abandonment of a couple of book projects and, of course, this newsletter. I say sabbatical because I have not the courage to commit to complete abandonment of that which gave me so much pleasure for so many years. “Extended sabbatical” gives me some wiggle room to return! But at this point, it’s hard to imagine I would do that.
I’ll leave this newsletter online for a while—though I may delete some older posts and revise others to better reflect my current thinking.
While I may be withdrawing from public life, so to speak, I still want to give myself to my church and my community and individuals in more personal ways. That includes teaching classes here and there, and mentoring as the opportunity arises. (In this vein, I extend an invitation to my faithful readers: If any want input on what they are writing or thinking about writing, I’m happy to give feedback, as time allows.)
I want to thank friends and the loyal readers of this newsletter, and especially my current proofreaders Nancy L., Keith R., and Jeff D. Your comments and support over the years have been so very encouraging. Every writer, no matter how seemingly confident and self-assured, longs to hear that readers find his material helpful in one way or another. Or not: As I’ve mentioned, I’ve probably learned most from my critics, so I thank you as well!
There is also a long list of organizations that have published my writings and/or hired me to edit and write—the list is too long to recount here. But you know who you are, and I recognize the great gift you have given by affording me outlets to learn my craft. Thank you.
At any rate, there is a time for every season under heaven, and I believe I’ve entered a new time and season of my life. I’ve drawn inspiration, as you might imagine, from many public figures in the past (from kings to local town officials), who decided to spend their last years in a monastery, simply learning how to pray and love their fellow monks. I like to think that I’m doing that sort of thing as my life circumstances allow. Naturally, I seek your prayers in these new endeavors.
Grace and peace,
Thank you much Mark for many years of much thoughtful writing -- books, stuff in Christianity Today, and your blog here. I always have look forward to getting the blog email... God bless you as you continue on your endeavors in this world, and intimately in the the next. I hope you will not hesitate to surprise us all with a new post here and there if and when the Lord leads. Much love.
I've learned so much through your writings these last years, Mark. I'm sorry I've never taken the time to comment until now. I wish you the Lord's best as you journey on and through this next phase. You're starting to draw and paint? Wow--Good for you! And, as you've said to us so many times--Grace and peace, to you.