I once read an article with a very arresting visual about child development. The chart in question overlaid graphs tracking an individual child’s physical, social and academic development. The article’s writer made the point that it’s optimal for a child if the lines tracing the various areas of his or her growth run fairly close together. Of course.
I remember the single image of a chart for a super-bright, standard height kid with really terrible social skills. The lines looked like three rays aiming at different planets in the solar system. There was no hope they’d ever meet in this or any other universe. The article’s author said in so many words that what fills the gap when a child’s growth is wildly out of sync is stress.
I can add a hearty AMEN to this observation. I had the privilege of watching it up close and personal in one of my kids. This kid was very, very smart, and wrestled mightily, loudly and with titanic rages for the first half of his growing-up years with social and relational stuff. A few people helpfully suggested that he’d grow out of it if Bill and I just made sure to stay the course with him, be consistent, and pray. The chart actually helped me understand that my son wasn’t growing out of anything at all. He was growing into someone. His Creator’s gift of adolesence and the work of the Holy Spirit fused those divergent rays into something beautiful and brilliant.
This week, I had a couple of conversations that yanked this out of my memory’s file cabinet. Good people, who want to love God well, who found themselves living a different word order and punctuation of the following imperative, found in Deuteronomy and quoted by Jesus:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
This is kind of what I heard in these conversations:
Love the Lord your God with all your mind. Full stop. And the rest of that stuff, too.
So I work at a university/seminary. The intent of the education offered there is for the whole person, but there is a strong and particular focus on the life of the mind there, as there should be. This week was mid-term, a time of high stress for lots of students. I’d expect to hear stress this week in particular.
What I’m hearing though, is a different kind of stress than that. I’m hearing the stress that fills the gap when response to God – heart, soul, mind, strength – compartmentalizes, then diverges.
I’ve seen it in myself, and I recognize it in these friends.
I am not sure what to say, or exactly how best to pray. Any thoughts?