Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons from the hill :: Concentric Circles {part 1}


He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

-Luke 10:26-27 (ESV)

One of my majors in college was Math. 


When people learn this they can be surprised that the other, Spanish, is language-oriented and even more surprised that I am a writer. 

So, I was really encouraged when my former high school English teacher, after he had read a bunch of my poetry, told me how he thought Math-types made some of the neatest, most unique writers.

Things like symmetry, order and logic are this built-in mental structure under which creativity flows.  This also lends itself to mathematical images out of which words are created.

So when I had an insight during a hill walk that involved concentric circles as they parallel the ordering of the loves and priorities of my heart, I smiled at this math-brain’s imagery.


Concentric circles have a common center. If the circles are moving objects and any of them move away from the center they cease to be concentric and will instead intersect at the outer edge and produce a picture of increasing chaos

Stick with me please.  I am going to try to explain what this has to do with ANYTHING and how this analogy is working to profoundly affect and shape my understanding of the ordering of what I love.




In the words of St. Augustine ::

“Oh Lord You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Our center is God.  To have an ordered life, He must be central in all things. The focal point of our vision.  The love and worship of Him must shape everything.  If we get off-center and try to make something else, essentially another circle, or love, the center we fall out of order, into chaos and lose perspective on everything.

Chaotic Circles

We become restless and the harmony of all elements of life knowing their proper place is lost. It’s hard to know God’s love and the peace, joy, LIFE that it brings when we are off-center.

This chaos has reigned too often in my life, especially since we moved overseas.  Some of the outer circles like friendships, work, beauty in common surroundings, language and basic human competency were gone.  I have felt unanchored, uprooted, anxious and just plain off.  This is common to any move, especially one to a new language and culture, so, as in all things as we live in the journeying mess, there is much Grace.

And truly, losing these things of lesser importance {outer circles} is a great gift.  Expanding on the analogy, if those circles are like skin over our hearts, as some are stripped away we find out what is truly forming our sense of well-being; our identity.  Many good things like friendships, home, consistent community are intended to bring us joy.  But it is so easy for lesser things to become the main thing. And it is only when we lose something that we love that we realize the disordered importance it is given.

The image of our loves as concentric circles, a bullseye, brings, then, a clearer picture of sin, or ‘missing the mark’.  If the goal of our lives is to bring glory to God, essentially, loving Him above all else, then when our circles are off center, there is sin.  It is a pervasive reality and we will always be off until we reach perfection, face-to-face and the Forever Glory of worship in Heaven.

Yet as this picture came to mind, while I was walking the hill, it was a very peace-filled hopeful thing.  My restless, restless heart was full of busy-frenetic-worried straining to replace some of the outer layers and I was constantly frustrated, angry and fearful when I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t make instant and deep friendships. I couldn’t learn a very hard language overnight.  My surroundings were new and frightening and not comforting and confidence-building.

So as I wrestled with my restless searching, I often felt a complete loss of the grounding center that is God.  All the while He is loving me as a Father, wooing me as a Lover and journeying with me in all things as the Spirit—comforting through the Word.  Extending infinite patience and compassion and the call Home, to the center, to His rest and a life that is filled with peace, joy and love that can accomplish great things for His Glory.

I shared this lesson first because it is the most over-arching and shaping of all that have come to me as I walk the hill.  The next piece will look at practical ways to keep God at the center.





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