It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.–3 John 1:3-4
As I write these words, I’m getting ready to fly off to Boston in the morning, ready for a full week of fun in the shade in Concord, Massachusetts, where I’ll be studying the Transcendentalists. In case it’s been more than a few months since your last American Literature course, the Transcendentalists are the group of writers from the 1830s and 1840s, centered around Concord and including the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Apparently, to be included in the group, you had to go by three names, which explains why Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville didn’t make the cut.
Next week, I’ll be visiting the Old Manse, the one-time vicarage that claimed both Emerson and Hawthorne as residents. I’ll walk the shores of Walden Pond, where Thoreau ran away from civilization. I’ll see the graves of a host of famous dead writers, and, as an added bonus, I’ll get to visit the site of the Battle of Concord, home of the “shot heard round the world.” (Those are Emerson’s words, by the way.)
I know what you’re thinking. You’d rather take a vacation to go watch paint dry than to study these guys for a week. That’s understandable; however, you’re probably not an English Professor-type. In speaking with several of my friends who are that type, I’ve heard expressions of jealousy and excitement. This is the sort of thing that excites us. I suppose you could compare it with a trip to Nashville for a country music fan or Paris for a fashionista.
Reading over John’s words here, however, I feel a bit guilty about my sense of anticipation. What should bring me greater joy, visiting Concord or going to church with my family? Seeing Thoreau’s cabin or witnessing one of my grandkids baptized? Walking Emerson’s gardens or watching my grown kids continue to mature in their faith? There shouldn’t be any debate here, but I’ll confess that there is.
We should strive to orient our minds so that the continued fidelity of our friends and family provides the greatest amount of joy. I don’t think that means we can’t enjoy a good steak, but we should keep these things in perspective.