My experience in graduate school was filled with drama. I was a bit surprised by this considering I had left the playground long ago, but nevertheless there was definitely some “I’m rubber, your glue” moments. One bit of drama was conceived when a cohort of students mutinied against a professor for all sorts of perceived injustices. When the administrator of our program came to talk about the situation he was given a list of reasons for the perception that the professor’s actions were wrong. As the discussion continued someone questioned the professor’s intentions. The administrator seized upon this moment to query whether intentions really mattered; the final outcome was the same regardless of the thoughts that preceded them. As the class nodded their assent, I raised my hand to disagree (a huge shock to those who know me well 🙂 ). Of course intentions mattered, I posited. If someone’s late because they intended to be so, and if someone’s late because of circumstances outside their control, I’m mad at the first, and sympathetic towards the second. Just because the outcome is the same regardless, doesn’t mean that the thought behind the action is worthless.
On the converse side, sometimes is our good intentions that redeem even the most ordinary of behaviors. Simple acts like cooking a meal, letting another go first on the freeway, or smiling at a stranger on a walk can be redemptive if the intention is to glorify God. Jean N. Grou stated that, ” It is quite possible to perform very ordinary actions with so high an intention as to serve God therein better than in far more important things done with a less pure intention.” When we act so as to bring God glory, the act may be commonplace but the intention is divine.
The challenge is for us to live our lives so that bringing God glory is always our intent. In the mundane and in the sacred, our job is to worship and honor Him. If we accomplish this through how we treat the clerk at the store, it is greater than if we found the cure for cancer with the intention of glorifying ourselves . . . Or more specifically, doing so is closer to us living in hte manner in which we were created to be.
I’m not sure I convinced our program administrator that intentions are important. It really doesn’t matter to me. But I hope to live my life in such a way that glorifying God is at the forefront of even in the most simple actions and that bringing Him honor is always my intent.