Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Three Questions

"Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world."

So says the old turtle to the boy, in answer to three questions.

The three questions, if answered, the boy had thought, would help him be the good person he desired to be.

When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?

The children's tale that poses these questions and gives answer through story is based on Tolstoy's "The Three Questions." On reading the tale, I found myself alternately thinking, "This is absolutely it!" and "This is no good at all." For sometimes we should wait, not act; the time is later. Sometimes the most important person is away, not near. Sometimes the good we need to do concerns those who are invisible, not perceived at our side.

Then, as I say, I would suddenly think, "But if I act as if this very moment is most urgent, and attend keenly to the ones I am with, and do good to the one who's standing by my side, would not all the rest fall into place? Would I not know when to wait, would I not do justice to those far away, would I not do good to the invisible?"

You see what I mean. For a story of only three questions, it pushed me to a world of wondering.

The Way photo, by Martin Stickland. Used with permission.


LL's thoughts on using or losing our gifts, Don't Give Your Gifts a Haircut, at the The High Calling

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Blogger Marcus Goodyear said...

What's this? A midweek post? What a treat, especially since I do love Tolstoy.

12:43 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

what a breathtaking photo!!

"being here now" seems to be a recurring theme these days. and yes, this is a most dizzying array of questions & wonderings!!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Are you sure that was Tolstoy and not Monte Python?
What is your name?
What is your quest?...

The story makes a person wonder, but we need to be able to discern things of transcendent importance, lest we succomb to the "tyranny of the urgent."

Martin's camera, if it had feelings, would be a content, fulfilled camera, don't you think? Nice piccy!

3:04 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Mark... :) Well, it just kind of happened. Maybe I'm getting antsy about the fact that next week I'll be going away, so there'll only be one more post between now and April 21st. Do you love Tolstoy? Tell me more.

Kirsten... isn't it great? Martin sometimes lets me use his work, and I delight in that. Sorry to be dizzying. I guess that's how I felt too and I just passed it on.

Craver... Oh! Quite funny. And is it Monty or Martin that's making you suddenly sound English? As for the three questions, I guess I struggled most with the answer to the first one, though each one, as I said, had me going back and forth with my opinions.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Michelle Van Loon said...

"Living into the questions" - I like that phrase. And Tolstoys' Big 3 are a good place to begin. (And end, probably!)

Living into the questions forces me out of my frontal lobe - onto my knees and into the world.

8:01 PM  
Blogger nannykim said...

I tend to be simplistic, but I love thinking about those things and I frankly like what the turtle answered. I have been trying to be alive to the moment I am in and to fully experience it. Not living in the past or future , but where God has put me right now. I really do love doing this. I try to concentrate on His presence and what He is doing right now in my midst. I like to realize that He has put me with these people at this time for a purpose and I try to be aware of what or how I can serve Him and them in the situation. The good I need to do to or for others who are not now present.....well, as I am concentrating on God now, where I am, in the moment I find he lays it right there in my heart--I feel Him pricking me if I should go see someone, write or email or phone someone or pray for that person. So I do not think it is an either or situation. I think it is living in the now, living and focusing on God's presence in the moment and on what or how he would have us do service for Him and others.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I think it does capture something that is good, true and important. Be there, be present where you are, not just swallowed up in your own things or in something else.

At the same time if we're an example to those we're with, they'll know our hearts are set on the kingdom of God and all that's involved in that. But it must never be at the loss of not being there for our loved ones, or for those we are present with.

I think of how Jesus took Peter, James and John with him into the Garden of Gethsemane the night he prayed. He wanted them there for human companionship, to pray for themselves, and to watch for him I think, but he was also being present for them at a most inopportune time for him, yet he knew this was important, that they be a part of this as well.

Interesting, and thanks.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Is that our ever funny UK Martin Strickland? Wow!

I'm afraid that I swing to extremes - Craver's tyranny of the urgent to ignoring the urgent (like last years tax returns - yes, I mean 2006) for writing letters to those far away.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your helpful words.


4:28 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Speaking of Martin, has anyone seen him lately?

Methinks he has gone unplugged this week. Best wishes to him, and if he's wandering around with his camera, I hope he is blessed with more treasures, and great fun with his family.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Kim said...


important time urgent

best good right justice

pushed to a world of wonder

Sometimes I wonder about our values. What we hold dear. Because we value time so much we have a need to prioritize our actions in a heirarchical way. We don't want to "waste" our time doing things out of the prioritized order.

But, is "efficiency" and "economy" really consistent with a pursuit of godliness? Are the creative people you know organized, efficient, economical? Can they be irrational, illogical, extravagant and lavish?

I honestly don't know much about Jewish culture. But, to me, the religious Jews have a sense of ease in their relationship with God that I envy. Did you ever see Fiddler on the Roof? Or more recently, Ushpizin? There's a not-irreverant casualness with Him. There doesn't seem to be the "most important, best thing to do right NOW" attitude towards life. Life is. He is. We are. To just BE.

4:01 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Michelle... yes, I felt that these three questions could last me a lifetime (and outlast my knees!)

Nannykim... alive to the moment. A nice phrase. Sometimes I wonder what it takes to do that.

Ted... what makes us absent, do you think? What feeds that?

Susan... yes, Martin has a very serious, poetic side. And we find it through his camera.

Craver... nope, haven't seen him. Maybe he is just around the corner on that lovely road.

Kim... speaking of a poetic side, why, you are finding yours! I love it.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm completely in awe of that photo. I could stare at it all day, but then again, I want to be there.
God's teaching me to wait. That doesn't mean putting off. On the contrary, somehow waiting translates to working even harder on my writing. But I'm also waiting. Maybe it ties to the already, not yet. Living in the present (as if the future resurrection's a reality), but really, as Christians, we're living for the future resurrection.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Preoccupation with other things which too often adds up to preoccupation with ourselves.

Maybe it starts with Timothy's example Paul speaks of in Philippians. That Paul had no one like him, since at least most were looking out for their own interests, and not for the interests of Jesus Christ.

So that needs to be translated into life beginning at home. And done by grace and God's help; we can't do it on our own.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Maybe we could reduce the three questions to one question and save ourselves a lot of unnecessary worrying. "God, what would *you* have me do in this moment?"


12:01 PM  

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