I have found myself pondering a few words the last day or so, all of which start with the letter 'c'. They are conscience, courage, contentment and Christ.
It began shortly after seeing that there was story online glorifying the latest news about Bruce Jenner. I didn't read the main story but I did read several pieces of commentary on the story. And it made me think about conscience, particularly in the sense that we all have a conscience and it gives us guidance about what is morally right and wrong in our thinking and behavior. And I write this knowing that there are many people in our day who would call into question the validity of the entire idea of a moral right/wrong, either individually or collectively. So be it.
How far has Jenner's thinking shifted over the course of a lifetime in order to reach the point where the actions currently taken have come to be perceived as right, as not just being morally neutral, but as something inherently good and in need of celebrating? I don't think that question is as rhetorical as it may sound, for all of us, myself included, are confronted by questions of conscience each day. Sometimes we respond according to our conscience and sometimes the orientation of our conscience changes. Frankly, I am baffled by the changes in our culture that allow something as seemingly clear as one's gender, something that was at one time a boundary, and a fairly fixed one, now being toppled and the new normal, whatever that is, being celebrated.
Which takes me to courage, and a related news story, where President Obama said that Jenner's action showed courage. I'm not so sure that is the right use of the word courage. I did look in a dictionary and, to my chagrin, many of the terms associated with courage could fairly apply to Jenner's actions, such as tenacity, resolution and firmness of mind and will.
I will assume that at minimum you will have stumbled across a picture of Jenner's new look. So I will offer another image for contrast, as an example of courage. In the above picture the tall man on the right is my oldest son. He served in the US Navy as a medic attached to a US Marine unit. The picture was taken while he was stationed in Ramadi, Iraq in 2007, and he is changing the bandage on the arm of an Iraqi girl. Looking at the picture of my son I am reminded of one thing, which is that whatever courage may be, it acts to serve others, and not to serve and glorify self.
A few days ago I read an article about contentment, which came back to mind as I saw the stories about Jenner. How far does one travel on the road towards contentment to think that the actions Jenner is taking will really be the balm that heals what is clearly a deep hurt?
Which brings me to the last of the 'C' words, and the best one. Christ. We all struggle with contentment, seeking to find it in one place or another. But at the end of the day, as a Christian, I believe that the only place we find true peace and rest, true contentment, is in the arms of Christ. We wrestle with our conscience, but in Him we find our conscience's true guide. And He is the truest example of courage, saying in the garden,
"Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."
Not my will, but yours.
Not the will of my conscience, unless it be guided by Christ. Not courage that glorifies myself, but courage that points towards Christ. Not any contentment for myself, unless it is rooted in Christ.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.