This year I’m crossing all resolutions off my list except one. I have decided to take a page from Paul’s book – specifically the 3rd chapter of Philippians where he says there is only ONE THING (not 10 or 20 things) worth pursuing in life. What is this ONE THING? He says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14). I think Paul was a Chambered Nautilus.
Have you heard of the Chambered Nautilus? Well, neither had I until I ran across a poem titled the “Chambered Nautilus”written by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Curious about why this spiral-shelled sea creature was getting so much attention, I Googled it…
As the Chambered Nautilus toils throughout the year, it turns the walls of its shell to a radiant mother of pearl. But each year it must leave this smooth old chamber and move into a larger, rougher one it built in the shell to accommodate new growth. After moving, the old chamber is closed off never to be inhabited again. Thus, at the beginning of each year, the old chamber’s ceiling becomes the new chamber’s floor.
Holmes admires the creature saying its “ship of pearl” formed by its “silent toil… that spread his lustrous coil… Still, as the spiral grew… he left the past year’s dwelling for the new.” Holmes goes on to compare these living habits to those of the most beautiful human soul…
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last
…Till thou at length art free
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea
Holmes discovered in creation what Paul was inspired to tell us… We must press on! We can’t live in the past. We can’t live on what we used to be. Great souls know that yesterday’s manna turns to worms. Rather, we must leave behind our former “low-vaulted” chamber of successes (or failures) and press on towards the goal.
And what is this goal? It’s not a trophy or medal or the praise of men. The goal is for the praise of One. Oh and by the way, this is not a willy-nilly complacent kind of pressing on. No, Paul describes a strenuous, zealous commitment of making last year’s ceiling this year’s floor… stretching full out with great energy of soul toward the goal of Christ likeness (selflessness, courage, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control…).
We all have areas in our lives not under the control of Christ as they should be. All of us have personal areas of morality, holiness and devotion where we struggle. We all lack knowledge of the Scriptures. None of us can look at our Bibles and say, “Ta Da!”
So starting this year and every year after that, let’s close the chamber door on last year’s successes (and failures) so that it becomes this year’s floor. The greatest souls always move forward no matter what. So we press on so that one day when we are finally free from this coiling shell of toil, we will hear, “Well done!”