Character, Part 2 - page 4

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From the Winter 2006 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Character, Part 2

by Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

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  Our destiny is like a diet. Dieting is won or lost in the little things. You may start with great resolve, so for breakfast you have orange juice and a piece of toast without butter. Lunch consists of a small piece of broiled chicken and a salad with no salad dressing. For an afternoon snack, you have one Oreo cookie; then later in the afternoon, the rest of the package. For dinner there is a large pizza with everything on it and a large cheesecake (the whole thing). Well, you get the idea. What is the problem with the one Oreo cookie? I have heard that you could have a diet consisting of Oreo cookies if you did not eat too many. But the problem is that our resolve is broken and, like taking our finger out of a dike, the flood waters flow in. It takes only a moment of irresolution to alter your destiny.
  The C. S. Lewis Institute used to have (for 10 years) a summer program on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The property there was expensive to maintain and the least obvious things were the most expensive. Around the edge of the property was built a sea wall consisting of large rocks that cost tens of thousands of dollars to install. The owner of the property next door did not put out the money to build a sea wall and lost about five acres or more of valuable land to the bay. Erosion is a perennial problem on the Eastern Shore and in our own lives. When we neglect time in Scripture and time in prayer, we do not always see or feel immediate consequences. It may take time before the erosion is evident. On the property there is a house not far from the shore. If there were no sea wall, the house would fall into the bay, not this year or next year and maybe not even in five or ten years. But sooner or later that house would be destroyed. Often people fall in private before they fall in public. There is a tendency for prayer to drive out sin or for sin to drive out prayer. The erosion, unless battled, is relentless.
  Another problem on this Eastern Shore property is accumulation of silt. At one time large boats could come right up a channel and dock in the harbor there, but because of silt accumulation, the channel needs to be dredged and that is a difficult and expensive proposition. So in our lives there can be an accumulation of silt that can muddy the waters and make it difficult for us to see clearly. Periodically, we need to dredge the channel so that clear water can flow again and we can restore clear communication with our Lord. Once the dredging is done, it has to be maintained or silt accumulates again.
  Often when the big moments come, the decisions have already been made. Iris Murdoch writes, “At crucial moments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over.” The habitual patterns of vice or virtue make it well nigh irresistible to choose otherwise. The battle for our destiny is fought not just at the big moments, but in the little decisions made previously. A list of taboos may not work when a young man and woman are in the back seat of a car. What happens there is often a matter of previous thoughts and choices. It is also influenced by considering the outcome—our destiny. Thomas Aquinas said the two vices that most obscure the future consequences of our actions are lust and covetousness. What are the future consequences of this choice? What kind of life do I want to live? What kind of person do I want to be? What is to be the story of my life? Will my choice now affect my destiny later? Sadly, many have found out that it does. My choice now can have a profound impact on the outcome of my life.
  On the positive side, you can prepare for heroic acts by living your ordinary lives well. The best preparation for the big moments are all the little moments when you choose the right thing.

Creating Character

  So how do we reverse patterns that we don’t like? Obviously, we have to start with our thoughts and resolve to act in a different manner. That is a beginning, but this resolution will not necessarily take us where we want to go. The process of change involves commitment, conscience, community, and courage.
  Lord, help us face defects in our character and resolve to deal with them starting in our thoughts and acts.

Stuart McAllister

Dr. Arthur W. Lindsley Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute – Art Lindsley has served at the C.S. Lewis Institute since 1987. Formerly, he was Director of Educational Ministries at the Ligonier Valley Study Center, and Staff Specialist with the Coalition for Christian Outreach. He is the author of C.S. Lewis’s Case for Christ, True Truth, Love: The Ultimate Apologetic, and co-author with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner of Classical Apologetics, and has written numerous articles on theology, apologetics, C.S. Lewis, and the lives and works of many other authors and teachers. Art earned his M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently the Vice President of Theological Initiatives for the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.
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