Prayer. We read, write, talk and agonize about it, resolve to do it, wish we’d done it more than we actually do it. In this it resembles other pursuits of which people overestimate the intensity, frequency and duration—such as reading, writing and sex.
When we Marty kids were in grade school, we entered any contest that pointed toward a prize. During those Great Depression years, we would have experienced great elation if we’d won even a bauble. But not then nor in any subsequent years of my life have I won a contest.
"What causes you to become discouraged?” I asked a visitor from eastern Congo who started a university in that country a few years ago. He told me that the school had grown from 200 to 500 to 800 students, and that it was adding new areas of study. I was impressed as he described the intersections of pastoral training, agriculture and health.
My mother studied painting at the New York Art Students League with Joseph Solman, the American artist who died last year at age 99. Solman was briefly a member, along with Mark Rothko, of an artistic vanguard known as The Ten, which in the 1930s rejected the literalism of American art and championed expressionism.
Could Peter Leithart be on to something when he calls 2 Kings 5 “the richest Old Testament story of baptism,” one that “anticipates Christian baptism”? The very thought of baptism makes me shudder. I remember mine, since my parents didn’t take me to be sprinkled as an infant.
Among spiritual qualities, why is humility one of the hardest to practice and yet probably the easiest to imitate? Why do so many politicians and clergy insist that they work not for themselves but for others—“not for myself, but for my country,” not for my own interests but for what’s right, not for me but for God?
Humility's job is not to crown the virtues but to serve them and infuse them with the spirit of the beatitudes ("Blessed are the meek.") Genuine humility orders the soul, bestowing clarity, calmness and competence.