Fourteen letters. Four syllables. From the German. Quite literally the meaning is world (welt) view (anschauung).
I am totally geeking out right about now.
I received this word in my inbox, compliments of Merriam-Webster. This is no big deal, really. I mean, I receive emails all the day through. Yet, there are certain moments of life that fall into place like the best well-rehearsed ballet that I cannot help but think there is no such thing as coincidence.
It’s all in how we view things.
Case in point:
I sat on my bed in the charcoal gray early morning and opened the little envelope on my phone. I read the verse of the day email, the devotional of the day email and then I got to the M-W Word of the Day email. Weltanschauung. Oh my. I wondered briefly who would be as impressed as I was with this fantastic word. Or, perhaps there was one with whom I could share it who would be impressed with me, that I could receive such a fine word in my inbox daily and that, once I used this word in action a few times and learned to spell it, I could put it in the Delicious Word Pouch in my mind and claim it as mine all mine … muahahaha.
And then God did what He does often with me. He shifted my paradigm. Since He is sovereign and I am not, I have learned to pay attention to that shift. On this morning, the shift came with the train.
To get this little story, you first have to know the blueprint of my home. The bottom floor is a simple four-room , square-ish layout. The bathroom and mudroom were added to the house as a postscript. The bedroom is next to the piano room. The piano room leads to the living room. The living room leads to the kitchen, which then leads back to the bedroom. The upstairs is loft-like. Think Little House rather than Flowers in the Attic please.
A functional and pleasing abode. Why, I can stand in a certain point in two rooms and see out of three sides of the house without taking a single step. Talk about a view, right? And part of that view includes what lies beyond the chicken coop and the garden shed. The CSX. Two sets of tracks, travelled day and night by industrious trains.
As I sat and mulled over who I could impress with my new-found word, I gazed absently out my bedroom window. That’s when I heard it. Within seconds, I saw it. The train was barreling down the tracks, lights blazing, pistons pumping, cars clattering away.
It was plain to me, right there in my window.
But here’s the thing — the train was coming from the opposite direction. The only thing I saw was a reflection of the train as the lights shined through the windows of the room behind me. My brain put together the sound and the tell-tale trio of lights and I knew it was a train, but I saw it imperfectly.
Even when I turned around and looked through the piano room, there was still a distortion created by double-paned windows and a pine tree. The only way to get a real, honest-to-goodness, first-hand look at the train was to stand in my yard as close to the tracks as I could legally and safely get.
Same goes for how I see Jesus. Or, how I see others. Or, how I see situations.
In I Corinthians 13, Paul writes:
But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Right smack in what Christians call “The Love Chapter”, Paul places these words. And they make sense. In order to love clearly, completely, truly, God-ly, we must stand as close as possible to the real thing. Anything else is just settling.
Settling for a picture of my Lord as delivered by my pastor.
Settling for a rapid-fire pleasantry with my neighbor.
Settling for a shallow, perfunctory, one-sided conversation with the God who made me.
Settling for a nod to my Savior when the worship music swells my feeling.
Settling for a wavy, broken reflection and claiming it as my reality and truth.
Settling for limited Weltanschauung.
When I taught writing at the college, I explained to my students that there is depth in the details. Some details I must add. Some details the reader must add from his experience. Put them all together, and there is a clearer, broader, more intimate picture of life. If we don’t get close, we can’t possibly examine the depth of those details.
Oh, but there are risks. The closer we get to Jesus, the more the world dislikes us. The closer we get to people, the more inclined we are to get messy. The more we know, the more we feel. The more we feel, the more we are called upon to move.
I sat there on my bed and shook my head at the reflection. I wanted more than the spelling and pronunciation of the word. I wanted to plumb the depths of weltanschauung, burst forth from the experience, break the surface and suck in enough fresh air for another plunge.
I headed for the tracks. I think I’d rather take the chance. There’s a great story for those who really see.