by Charles R. Swindoll
“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required. The stars neither require it nor demand it” (Annie Dillard).
A lot of things in life are like that, aren’t they?
A piano sits in a room, gathering dust. It is full of the music of the masters, but in order for such strains to flow from it, fingers must strike the keys . . . trained fingers, representing endless hours of disciplined dedication. You do not have to practice. The piano neither requires it nor demands it. If, however, you want to draw beautiful music from the piano, that discipline is required.
A child plays at your feet, growing and learning. That little one has incredible potential, a hidden reservoir of capability and creativity, but in order for those possibilities to be developed, parents must take time . . . listen, train, encourage, reprove, challenge, support, and model. Moms and dads do not have to do any of that. The child neither requires nor demands that we do so. If, however, we hope to raise secure and healthy offspring, those things are required.
Time spreads itself before us, directionless and vacant. That time can be filled with meaningful activities and personal accomplishments, but in order for that to occur, you must think through a plan and carry it out. You do not have to plan or follow through. Time neither requires it nor demands it. If, however, you hope to look back over those days, weeks, months, and years and smile at what was achieved, planning is required.
What is true of the stars, a piano, a child, and the days ahead is especially true of your mind. It awaits absorption. It will soak up whatever you feed it: imaginary worries, fears, filthy and seductive thoughts, hours of television, and selfish greed . . . or good books, stimulating discussions, exciting risks of faith, the memorization of Scripture, and learning a few new skills. You can even take a course or two that will stretch your mental muscles.
You do not have to pay the price to grow and expand intellectually. The mind neither requires it nor demands it. If, however, you want to experience the joy of discovery and the pleasure of plowing new and fertile soil, effort is required.
Light won’t automatically shine upon you, nor will truth silently seep into your head by means of rocking-chair osmosis.
It’s up to you. It’s your move.
If the splendor of the stars is worth sitting outside in the dark, believe me, the joy of fresh discovery is worth sitting inside in the light.