Math, wisdom, and white sand

 

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

In May, with spring finally in swing, we will be looking at stages of growth.

My thanks to author Nancy Nordenson for contributing a chapter from one of her excellent books of spirituality,  Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul (Baker Books, 2004). Her quiet call to embrace faith, creativity, and wisdom is pure reading pleasure.  See below for a special offer on this book!

The book is divided into 15 sections that lend themselves to daily inspirational reading. Each chapter is enhanced by literary passages from authors: Graham Greene to C.S. Lewis, Thorton Wilder to Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Jane Austen to Sue Grafton!

Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

 

I Was Younger Yesterday

Nancy Nordenson

 

I was younger in 1986.

I look now at a picture taken that year of me and my husband, bright and smiling against a background of blue sky and white sand. Between us our two-year-old firstborn child is standing on a ledge that is waist-high to me. He is leaning into my shoulder. My arm cradles him; his father’s arm guards him from behind. His father wears a proud smile.

How young we were in those early years of our first child’s life.

If my husband and I had been shown at that moment the immense amount of growth that life would require of us in the years to come, would we have been able to stand so assuredly and smile so confidently? Such an unobscured vision of the future might be likened to looking ahead to the last problems in a math textbook during the first day of class. Previewing one’s academic future in that way never failed to bring disbelief that the challenges ahead would be possible to meet. Nonetheless, as the class progressed, one gained assurance as chapter after chapter led toward solving that final problem.

Life is like math class. Through the mercy of life’s design we are spared receiving a lifelong body of knowledge and experience all at once. Instead, life offers its learning opportunities day by day, masked in disguises trivial or profound—as work or play, joy or sorrow, success or failure. 

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“I see it now,” she said presently. “It is very strange to say one is young at the moment one is speaking. But to-morrow I shall be older. And then I shall say I was young to-day. You are quite right. This is great wisdom you are bringing, O Piebald Man.” 

C.S. Lewis, Perelandra

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We learn from our experiences as we go through them, and also as we look back on them. When looking back, we can reflect on those experiences from an older and hopefully wiser perspective, even if we’re older by just one day. Like the island woman in C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, we can accept yesterday and today’s inevitable naiveté with calm and humility, and look with gratitude and optimism to a new day in which to be older.

Every day we’ll have been young. Every day we’ll be older.

Photo by Monica Gozalo on Unsplash

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Nancy Nordenson is the author of Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, (Kalos Press, 2015), and Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul (Baker Books, 2004). Her writing has appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Indiana Review, Comment, Under the Sun, Relief, and in other publications and anthologies, including The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God (Cascade), Becoming: What Makes a Woman (University of Nebraska Gender Studies), and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage (Kalos Press, 2015). Her work has earned multiple “notable” recognitions in the Best American Essays and Best Spiritual Writing anthologies and Pushcart Prize nominations. She is currently working on a book about hope.

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My note:

Nancy has a lovely website. She has put a discount into the system so that if you use the code GRETAHOLT there is a 20% discount, good from May 2 through June 18!   http://thelivelihoodproject.com/buy

Thank you, Nancy!

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I welcome your comments: gretaholtwriter.com/blog. Please enjoy a few short stories on the Home page, as well.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this blog’s featured image. Her blog is: https://addieswriting.wordpress.com.}

Best wishes and have a good week.

Greta

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Greta Holt

4 Comments

  1. Diane Gottlieb on May 3, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Loved the question: “If my husband and I had been shown at that moment the immense amount of growth that life would require of us in the years to come, would we have been able to stand so assuredly and smile so confidently?” I know that I certainly would not have even been able to stand at all had I known what the future held for me!
    Loved the math textbook metaphor–very powerful.

    • Greta Holt on May 3, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      So true, Diane. We say we want to know what’s coming up, but do we really? What we want is certainty, which apparently is not allowed in this life. I’m reading Nancy’s book with great interest.

  2. Debra Palmquist on May 7, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    “Through the mercy of life’s design we are spared receiving a lifelong body of knowledge and experience all at once.” So powerful to think of. I feel just now in my early 60s that I am able to receive knowledge and be able to make connections through my experiences to fully understand. Thank you. Debra

    • Greta Holt on May 7, 2018 at 11:32 pm

      Me too, Debra. The quote makes me think that we simply must learn to live the moments of our lives, not the past (regret) or the future (worry.) Love this post and Nancy’s book.

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