An intellectual at prayer: Soren Kierkegaard

It's snowing in Charlottesville today!  More than forty students came at the promise of a fire in the fireplace, homemade comfort food and a reading from Kierkegaard, our favorite existentialist.  At the age of 22, Kierkegaard (1813-1855) struggled with an issue that is very much alive for us today: "What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action.  The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live an die."  What a challenge it is to not only sort out the intellectual ideas and beliefs that we hold about God, but to truly live out that faith in the world. Kierkegaard's journal entries and written prayers [sign up here to read them] take us into the intense inward life of a thoughtful person seeking "to will one thing", a life in God, even through doubt, anxiety and distraction.  The philosopher reminds us of the astonishing, reassuring truth that "the seeker does not always have to wander far afield since the more sacred the object of his search, the nearer it is to him; and if he seeks You, O God, You are of all things more near."

God, who loves us with an infinite love, is moved to respond to our prayer:  "You are the One, who is one thing and who is all!  So may you give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend the one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills only one thing." For students struggling to grow into a adult faith of their own, Kierkegaard speaks as a mentor who has gone before us---as an older brother who witnesses to God's faithfulness in our wrestling.