Friday, June 23, 2006


"I am no card-player"

As a follower of Christ in this fallen world, I am a peculiar creature by definition, so I suppose I ought not be surprised when this person or that, noticing my rather atypical behavior, looks at me as though I'm a refugee from another planet. A number of years ago, I was talking with one of my co-workers about the movies we liked. I happened to comment that I like to pay close attention while I watch a film so I can get an accurate impression of the message it's trying to communicate. To this, my collegue scolded me for taking my entertainment far too seriously. For his part, he preferred to watch big, loud action flicks, turning off his mind and allowing his senses to wallow in the audio-visual extravaganza unfolding before him. How silly I was in his eyes to have any kind of serious purpose when I ought to be just kicking back and relaxing!

Several years have passed since that conversation, but I don't think I've loosened up very much. Now, I do think my sense of humor has improved (if I am to judge by how often and loudly my friends laugh at my not-so-wise cracks), but yet my outlook on life--both work and play--remains fundamentally serious. Mind you, I still like to have fun, but yet I continually bear in mind the fact that my life as a Christian ought to be more than fun and games. In view of Scripture's admonition to do whatever I do for the glory of God, it seems to be that I ought to have the purpose of pleasing God ever-present in my mind whether I'm worshipping in church, writing computer code at the office, or listening to music at home.

In contrast to the now-oriented, pleasure-oriented hedonism that's all around me, I suppose my serious worldview does make me a rather odd bird, so I find it to be reassuring that my plight is nothing new. In Jane Austen's novel Persuasion (published in 1818), we find that the heroine, Anne Elliot, thinks none too highly of the sociable frivolity of her day. Late in the novel, we find her reunited with Captain Wentworth, the naval officer whom she'd nearly married over eight years before:

Captain Wentworth left his seat, and walked to the fire-place; probably for the sake of walking away from it soon afterwards, and taking a station, with less bare-faced design, by Anne.

"You have not been long enough in Bath," said he, "to enjoy the evening parties of the place."

"Oh! no. The usual character of them has nothing for me. I am no card-player."

"You were not formerly, I know. You did not use to like cards; but time makes many changes."

"I am not yet so much changed," cried Anne, and stopped, fearing she hardly knew what misconstruction. After waiting a few moments he said, and as if it were the result of immediate feeling, "It is a period, indeed! Eight years and a half is a period."

Eight and one-half years had passed since Anne had been persuaded by a friend to break off her engagement to Wentworth, but even after all that time, Anne was still no card-player. In saying this, she didn't mean to imply that she never attended social engagements or that she enjoyed no amusements, but rather that her attitude towards life wasn't happy-go-lucky and frivolous. Although she was more than willing to make social engagements with those for whom she cared (such as an old schoolmate named Mrs. Smith), she saw no point in socializing for its own sake. In this conversation, Captain Wentworth was trying to discern whether Anne's recent attentions to him had been on account of formal politeness or sincere interest, so he was no doubt pleased to learn that Anne was "no card-player."

I wish that more people, especially Christians, exhibited our fictional heroine's seriousness of purpose, but all too many folks exhibit a tendency to treat the lighter side of life as though it was an end in itself. How many work and slave during the week primarily so they can afford to cut loose during the weekend? I think this pleasure-seeking ethos may be one factor behind today's platonic friendships which provide a man and woman with the pleasures of companionship without the responsibility of committment. If so, perhaps it ought to be no wonder to me that people don't know what to make of a peculiar person who believes that there is a higher purpose to life than that of having a good time.

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