Dear Veritas Families,
I hope you are enjoying your summer with your family. It is a summer where everybody is trying to return to the norm. But what is the norm? From the ancient past, one way of thinking about a normal life is to ask if there is a balance between the active life and the contemplative life, of course all directed toward God. For example, we can ask ourselves: Am I serving God, and am I enjoying God? Yes, you might recall the difference between Martha, who loved to serve the Lord, and Mary, who loved to sit and listen to the Lord. We need both, with a priority on enjoying God.
Realizing the need to counter the busyness of my school life, I found a good excuse to engage in some contemplation and enjoyment of God in teaching 9th grade Reading/Writing class over the summer. The age level of these 9th graders was perfect for me to read three books on becoming a godly man, Future Men, Death by Living, and a great classic adventure story: The King Solomon’s Mines. We read and discussed about what various aspects of what a godly man looks like. Students were trained to dig deep, not only within each book, but to cross reference them, and to reflect biblically on the meaning of manliness. Students learned many dimensions of biblical manliness, but one definition captured it well: “the collection of all those characteristics which flow from delighting in and sacrificing bodily strength for goodness.”
And since masculinity has to do with bodily strength, we could not just discuss about it. So, we went on an adventure—an overnight camping at Mojave Desert, during the hottest part of the year. 6 boys and 3 fathers. It was 3rd time for me, but every time I go, Mojave Desert has a way of calling me back, even though half of me always says, no.
On the way up, we stopped over to get some wood under a large tent from an old Korean grandmother, whose cheeks were flushed. I checked the thermometer: 119 degrees! Once at the park, we took the Teutonia Peak trail. On the trail, we were welcomed by a small owl sitting on a branch of a Joshua tree in an area where most Joshua trees burned out a couple of years ago. The trail seemed endless, but we made it to the top. And what a view! It’s as if we could see half of the world. The giant boulders with its dug-outs were strangely comforting to our bodies and souls. Gazing out into the valley from this mountain top seemed to somehow clean out all the gunk from the crevices of our souls.
We came down and found a most perfect camp site, with plenty of shade and about 50 feet from another grand viewpoint. Although the temperature were in the 80s at night, many of us did not sleep well, since it was hotter in the tent. But we ate well! Korean bulgogi and samgyupsal for dinner, and pancakes, eggs, and bacon for breakfast. For morning devotion, we read from Ps 18, about a time when David was running away from Saul, and he found refuge in wilderness. David learned to trust in God, a God who has control over even the physical nature. We needed God, as we were faced with climbing the Kelso Dune in this sweltering weather.
With a backup plan, we still went to the Kelso Dune. There was a roadblock to the trailhead and a sign that read: “Warning, temperature will be up to 120 degrees. We recommend you hike before 10 AM.” It was 9:20 AM. I was hesitant, but several voices urged us on. At that time, the temperature was actually about 100. And there was a large cloud hanging above the Kelso Dune peaks. I cannot but help feeling that God is helping us (By the way, there was nobody else there except us). The Kelso Dune is quite steep, so much so that many go around the side to walk to the top. I told the boys there is only one way we are doing this: climbing it straight up. Even as I said those words, my heart is in prayers. To my amazement, these boys trekked up to the top, quietly and steadily. Watching them from behind, I can almost see them struggle to overcome their fears. Once we reached the top, we gave thanks to God and enjoyed the unparalleled vista on both sides of the dune. A couple of days later, as we ended the class, one of the students wrote me a card saying, “Dr. Kim, I learned so much through this class. That trip to the Mojave Desert was the one of the hardest things I ever did, but I learned many things through it.” Of course, I learned the lesson of the need to balance active and contemplative life—even in the same activity.