On Well-Worn Doormats by Thomas S. Buchanan

On Well-Worn Doormats

If you see an intelligent man, visit him early; let your foot wear out his doorstep.
—Ecclesiasticus 6:36

There is something in our culture that prizes independence and shuns authority. Perhaps it is the nature of democracy that fosters the notion that we are all equal and should not be subordinate to anyone (although I sense that in recent generations there was more respect for those in authority than now). We do not mind the idea of obeying God, but that is because we can decide privately what he tells us to do. God does not generally speak to us in clear ways that we can readily discern. Have you ever heard someone say something like “I prayed about divorcing my husband and had a real peace about it” or other such nonsense? This kind of “obedience to God” is easy when your ears are dull, your mind is fuzzy, and your heart is set, because when you close your eyes to pray, you only feel the longings of your soul. And this, in today’s religious culture, is generally called “finding God’s will.”

Although we are all of equal value, we are not all at equal points in the spiritual journey. In the ladder of divine ascent, we are not all on the same rung—some are higher, some are lower, some have fallen off, and others have never started. Christians throughout the ages have realized this simple truth. That is why the Fathers have taught us that if we wish to take the Christian life seriously, we need to be under the authority of someone holier than ourselves.

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Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.

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