by Travis Pickell
First of all, I am sorry for the long delay in posts. Not that anyone was particularly on the edge of their seat waiting for a new one, but I realize that some people may have been wondering if I ever came back from Nicaragua. You may now stop worrying, I did make it back (although I wasn’t sure that I would when I was pulled over by a corrupt police officer in Managua one night!). The trip was so amazing! God worked through the teams that came in amazing ways, and perhaps more poignantly he did an exciting work in the hearts of many of the team members. Sarah and I, of course, were confronted and transformed by God as well: being reminded of the transience of material wealth, the complete insanity and complete joy that ensues while following Christ into wild situations, the importance of relying on God’s power and presence in the face of suffering, and the humility of learning that a five year old Nicaraguan can often be closer to the heart of Jesus than we are.
Over the past few weeks Sarah and I have been traveling every weekend (mostly to weddings – congrats Georgia and Warren, Scott and Meg, and Madison and Pamela!) and I have been doing summer Greek at PTS. I have had the chance to read and think about some great things but I haven’t yet taken the time to process much of it, let alone write about it.
I am quickly learning something about how my brain works. My brain is something like a pond. As new thoughts and ideas are introduced they enter the reservoir and float around for a while. However, if all that ever happens is more and more coming in, then the water stagnates, movement stops, and the pond becomes murky and overgrown with algae. This can be a terrible problem for a pond or lake. It can similarly be a problem for my own thinking.
What is needed is an outlet. As water moves out of a pond or lake, new water inevitably moves in and stimulates movement, clarity, and ultimately growth. Typically, school provides a ready-made outlet for my thinking, but there is no substitute for taking time to write thoughts on paper, or for face-to-face conversations in which ideas can be challenged, clarified, and applied to everyday life. Of course, we have all met people who seem to have no sharing their opinions on their blogs or in person, and yet seem to have had no real meaningful input behind them. A pond will drain out in the absence of rain leaving only mud and muck, and that isn’t good either.
So, here’s to a proper balance of input and output, of reading and writing, of reflection and conversation. I want my thinking to be clear, meaningful, practical and dynamic and to that end, I hope to get out of my own introverted head more. Martin Luther defined sin as a heart curved in on itself. I guess you could say that intellectual sin in a brain turned in on itself.
Recently, I sat with a friend here at seminary on his porch, smoking cigars and talking about everything under the sun: sports, God, school, relationships, cigars, technology, etc. At the end we reflected on the tendency toward isolation that many people feel while at a seminary like Princeton and we further reflected on how our time on his porch had been some of the best fellowship we had experienced. We called it “theological worship.” It was probably one of the best reminders that I have had that the best theology is not done in isolation (i.e. reading one book with the resolve to finish it just so I can move on to the next). The best theology is done in community, in fellowship, in shared worship and in wonder in the face of an unimaginable God who meets us “whenever two or three are gathered” in his name.