Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Daniel Purposed In His Heart

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Daniel 1:8)
I think it is notable that Daniel made this determination in himself when he found his beliefs in conflict with the policies of those in charge of him. I think this story is very applicable to us today, surrounded as we are by the world.

The scriptures say that Daniel would not defile himself with the king’s meat. I used to think it was odd that Daniel was picky about what meat he would eat, until I remembered that the Law of Moses is pretty specific about what animals are “clean” and what animals are “unclean”. It is likely that Daniel was being given all kinds of strange creatures to eat.

Daniel provides us a great model to follow whenever people with authority over us ask us to do things against our standards. Daniel didn’t stew about what he was given to eat (pardon the pun); he went to a person who could make a decision and he explained himself. He also proposed an alternative and even an experiment so that results could be judged. (How scientific! A dietary experiment is recorded in the Bible!) Daniel’s strategy shows us that when we object to something, it would be wise of us to suggest an alternative course of action.

I faced this kind of situation in several of my classes as a Literature, Writing, and Film major at ASU. I knew as I registered for my Introduction to Film class that some films would be shown that would strongly conflict with my personal viewing standards, but the class was required for my major. Like Daniel, I purposed in my heart that I would not defile myself. I determined that I would talk to my teacher about it before the semester began and I fasted about what I should say before I went to see her. I told her about my concerns and my personal viewing standards and I offered to view alternative films and do extra work. We were able to arrive at an agreement. I found that because I chose clean films to do my film analysis papers on, I was able to look more carefully at the artistic elements and give more substantial commentary on them.

As another example, in my first poetry class, we were required to make five semester goals. For one of my goals, I determined that I was going to keep my poetry positive. I knew it was far too easy for poetry to become a medium for venting and ranting and mourning and spewing all kinds of cynical thoughts. As the semester progressed, I found that my goal was an extra constraint that required me to develop extra creativity. In particular, I gravitated toward a speculative approach. At the end of two semesters of poetry classes, my teacher told me she always looked forward to my poems and workshops of other people’s poems.

When we decide that we will not defile ourselves and we make an effort to work with authority to find alternatives, we are blessed. It’s not necessarily easy and we may be misunderstood and thought prudish and too sensitive, but we will have learned while staying pure.