Objective Reality, a Library Card, and Wisdom

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

When Gina and I first moved to Gallatin we put an offer on a house, but the process of closing took much longer than expected. So during that time, we lived with some very gracious and hospitable parishioners.

If you know the Bottoms at all, you know that we enjoy utilizing the local library wherever we live. In the age of Amazon and free one-day delivery, we like to exercise the frugal option of walking to the library, pulling out our library cards, and checking out books for a few weeks at a time. In fact, procuring library cards is one of the first steps we take to establish ourselves in any new location. So, in an effort to gain some sense of stability in the midst of transition we went in search of our new library cards.

And perhaps our hopes of finding stability in a new library card was not fair to the card itself nor to the library staff. They didn't know how stressed we were: moving to a new city, starting a new job, buying our first house. So when they told us we couldn't get a card without a permanent address, which we didn't have, we almost lost it at the circulation desk.

We had been using the church address to forward all of our mail for the time being; so we had an address, it just wasn't a permanent one. Reality hit. No address, no card.

We felt that an exception should have been made. After all, we were us. Didn't they see that we were trustworthy. I came really close to saying, "I'm a pastor for heaven's sake!" (I'm really glad I didn't say that).

Reality bites. No address, no card.

Remember the soundtrack to this movie?! So good.

As I've thought back on that almost-very-embarrassing moment, I realized that in that moment we had come up against something that we all function in everyday. Reality. Reality is what it is, no matter how badly we don't want it to be that way. Objective reality means that regardless of how we perceive the world in our mind, how we think things ought to be, however much we feel things should be different, the world is what it is. The library staff wasn't going to budge, and we couldn't provide a permanent address.

I heard a speaker once say, "Reality has a way of hurting people that don't take it seriously." I think he was absolutely right. I certainly don't mean to suggest that not getting a library card was hurtful by any stretch. It was inconvenient. It was unfortunate. It was frustrating. But not hurtful. It was, in fact, a gentle reminder that regardless of how badly we wanted that card, our feelings, our desires and wishes simply weren't going to change the way things were.

Objective reality has consequences. This goes across the board, from library cards to what happens after we die. The way things are will not change just because we have strong desires for them to change. So, it matters how we see things, and what we believe about life and death (and life after death). Because if our experience in life teaches us anything, life after death will not simply be whatever each person feels it ought to be. Therein, we may live and die wisely.

If the Fear of the Lord is the first step to wisdom, then I believe the second step is acknowledging reality as it is. Acknowledging that God has designed things to operate a certain way. Living wisely means seeing that design and using it to live successfully.

It begins with humility, but also by acknowledging that He has designed His creation to be a certain way; that some things are the way that they are. As they say in Spanish, "Sea lo que sea." Living wisely isn't wishing that things ought to be a certain way. It's trying to realize the way things actually are and then aligning ourselves as best as possible to that reality. Understanding the design and then using the design for successful living and successful dying.

"If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Thank you, Gallatin Public Library for the reminder.

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