What’s your vector, Victor?
by Marc Hays
Usually sanctification comes as a steady rain. Drop after drop after drop until the ground of your conscience has been saturated and you’re different than you were before. As the Spirit is prone to move like the wind, we don’t see where He comes from or where He goes. Sometimes sanctification comes like a flash flood. Life was dry and sunny and then “boom”! You’re not even sure what hit you, but you’re soaking wet and you’re no longer the same person you were before. I had one of these flash flood, sanctifying moments as G.K. Chesterton unfolded the “Ethics of Elfland” in his book Orthodoxy. Here’s a paragraph that changed me forever:
The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE. Heaven may ENCORE the bird who laid an egg.
Prior to reading Orthodoxy, I was not thankful for the status quo. I‘m not sure I even liked it, so I know I took it for granted. But after reading that paragraph, I could almost hear God say, “Do it again”, to the sun every morning as she peeked above the hills. The regularity of creation became more exciting than the irregularities. As Chesterton said elsewhere, “having a nose became more comic than having a Norman nose.” In Him we live, move, and have our being. (Acts 17:28) He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17) I viewed these verses with some notion of cosmic maintenance, as opposed to the personal activity of an eternal, unchanging God. Chesterton showed me that the status quo is living and active–repetitive due to activity, not inactivity, as he so aptly put it.
Now in your life, there are only three categories of things. There’s God, there’s you, and then there’s everything else that’s not God or you. There’s God, who is actively unchanging, and that’s a good thing. He is eternally perfect, defining good and evil by his very nature. He is eternally loving and happy, one God in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. His status quo is a happy place. Then, taking my list a little out of order, there’s everything that’s not God or you. That would be creation. As Mr. Chesterton explained, creation does what she’s told. God says, “Do it again”, and she’s happy to do so. Her status quo is a happy place. Then there’s you. What’s your status quo? What’s your vector, Victor?
In the study of physical motion, we learn the distinction between a scalar quantity and a vector quantity. A scalar quantity would contain no directional information. An example would be speed. “The airplane was traveling 125 mph.” A vector quantity, however, would contain speed and direction. For example, “The airplane was traveling 125 mph due west.” In order to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ you really, really, really want your pilot to be keeping up with his vector, not merely his speed. No matter how fast you’re going someplace, you have to be pointed towards that place in order to ever arrive there. Once you’ve achieved that heading, the quickest way to your destination is to stay on it. That heading becomes your status quo for the journey.
As Mr. Chesterton convinced me to be thankful for the status quo, I was left asking myself the question, “What’s my heading? Am I heading in a good direction? What’s my status quo?” God is eternally seeking His holy pleasure, in accordance to His holy will. That’s a good thing. The sun rises every morning. No reason for any change there, but what about me? Am I on a heading that gets me where I need to go?
In my musings upon the Christian’s status quo, I came up with three distinctions: 1.)the status quo that doesn’t change, 2.) the status quo of change, and 3.) the status quo that must change.
1.) The status quo that doesn’t change – This status quo is static because it is the Christian’s objective standing in Jesus Christ. Justified is justified. Born again is born again. Regenerate is regenerate. You know–black-coffee Calvinism kinda stuff.
2.) The status quo of change – Flowing out of the fountain of #1’s extra stout stability in Christ is a status quo of progress. The status quo of change, i.e. being conformed to the image of Christ, becomes the believer’s new status quo, which will inevitably and gloriously lead to…
3.) The status quo that must change – The need for the children of God to change some of the facets of our daily status quo throughout the entirety of our lives. There are bad habits that we have stopped practicing altogether, and there are habits in our lives that must still be put to death. There are still limbs that need to be amputated and eyes that need to be plucked out.
God is strong enough to exult in monotony. Thanks be to Him that the encore of daily sanctification is the status quo, the Christ-centered vector, for His children.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 1:5-2:10