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Random Meaning spacer Random Meaning
BY: Denis Haack
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Fearing randomness meaningfully
This past weekend I did nothing and it was profoundly productive. We spent the weekend away from Toad Hall, away from our office and reminders of work and to-do lists yet incomplete, though I love my home and work and find great contentment in its confines. We drove northeast about 70 miles across expansive farm land planted in soybeans, alfalfa, wheat, and corn to the Washington County fairgrounds in St. Elmo, Minnesota, a community small enough to be missed unless you are looking for it. There we stayed for two days, folding chairs set up in the shade of a tree in the middle of the 15th annual Shepherd’s Harvest Festival. We walked slowly through the buildings where fiber artists offered their wares in a display of creativity and beauty astonishing in its array of textures, shapes, and colors. There were barns of goats and sheep, llamas and alpacas, and angora rabbits sitting quietly on laps as their owners spun yarn from the wool plucked off their backs. Some people were there to take classes in spinning or dying or weaving, while others were obviously networking—I was there to look and be and nothing else. I had a book with me but read precious little since there was so very much to see, people and sheep dog demonstrations, a 4-H bunny agility competition I would have paid admission to see, sheep shearing and wool felting, and lots of people dedicated to crafts passed on over many generations, hard won skills honed by practice and mentorship and care. It took two days to take it in, and then only partly.

If you are waiting for me to say that I wish you all could have been there, sorry. Don’t mean to be mean, but find your own festival. Not knowing anyone, being able to be there without expectations or plans was part of the refreshment. The sort of rest I needed, and enjoyed, and felt afterwards that something deep inside had been touched with healing by the glimpses of glory that surrounded us in the quiet amidst the bustle on that little fairgrounds in a rural small town.>br>
This is part of my story, the sort of rest I need occasionally, a Sabbath that sparks energy and creativity and motivation and contentment in my calling. It is a small part of what brings a sense of significance into the disparate details that make up my daily life. Without occasional oasis like that margins become inadequate and randomness begins to eat away at meaning. Daniel Taylor notes correctly that, “we are constantly looking for a meaningful plot to our lives, for connections between things. Our fear that life is random and meaningless is stronger than the fear of want or violence.”

My point is not to suggest that you should need the same thing I do, but that you know what you need and intentionally shape your life to make it as possible as possible. Yes, I am hedging here, because our intentions and what is possible do not always mesh in this broken world. The danger comes not from being deflected from what would be best, but from drowning an intentional life in waves of busyness or entertainment or commitments that are nothing more than agreeable forms of addiction. It’s right and proper to fear that life may be meaningless. Not only are there voices proclaiming that this is so, but a sense of meaning can be a fragile thing easily disturbed by shame and guilt, disappointment and weariness of soul. Only the risen Christ is sufficient for the first two and only Christ as Lord of all is sufficient for the second pair.

My point is that we take time, in community that is safe and rooted in a tradition of wisdom, to reflect enough on our story that we can identify its parts with enough clarity to see how they bring meaning out of the randomness of life. Even in this broken world there is beauty to be enjoyed and a Creator to be adored.


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about the author
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Denis Haack
Denis is the author of The Rest of Success: What the World Didn’t Tell You About Having It All and has written articles for such journals as Reformation & Revival Journal, Eternity, Covenant, and World. He holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
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other articles from this author
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Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (Suketu Mehta, 2004)

It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, revised & expanded (Ed. Ned Bustard, 2006)

Hearing is Not Knowing

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