By Rev. Ed Hird
One of my favorite authors is Dr. A.W. Tozer. I appreciate him because he stirs me to think, to feel, to hope, and to search. In this information age of ever-increasing data, Tozer gave us more than just more knowledge; he gave us wisdom to live by. He believed that the widest thing in the universe is not space: it is the potential of the human heart.
Tozer saw it as one of the world’s worst tragedies that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room in them for little besides ourselves. There are times in my life when my heart has shrunk and hardened. Dr Tozer has been like a ‘heart surgeon’ to me, performing spiritual angioplasty when I have needed it the most. He has helped me keep my heart open and soft towards my family, my community, and my God.
Tozer’s final years of life were spent in Toronto. On May 12, 1963, he died of a heart attack at age 66. Some wonder why Tozer’s writings are as fresh today as when he was alive. It is because, as one friend commented, “He left the superficial, the obvious and the trivial for others to toss around. . . . His books reach deep into the heart.”
Tozer’s love for words also pervaded his family life. He quizzed his children on what they read and made up bedtime stories for them. “The thing I remember most about my father,” reflects his daughter Rebecca, “was those marvelous stories he would tell.”
His humor, written and spoken, has been compared to that of Will Rogers–honest and homespun. People could one moment be swept by gales of laughter and the next sit in a holy hush. Tozer believed that the essence of true religion is spontaneity.
Tozer held that one way society destroys people is by preventing them from thinking their own thoughts. As Canadians with our emphasis on accepting all views, we are particularly susceptible to being programmed by our media. Our ‘vastly improved methods of communication’ of which the shortsighted boast so loudly now enable a few people in strategic centers to feed into millions of minds alien thought-stuff, ready-made and pre-digested. A little effortless assimilation of these borrowed ideas and the average person has done all the thinking he will or can do. Tozer believed that the mind should be an eye to see with rather than a bin to store facts in. Every time I read Tozer, I feel like the fog has lifted from the tops of the forests, and I can see clearly again.
In Greater Vancouver, there are many very successful people. Sometimes the most successful outwardly are the most wounded inwardly, especially in one’s primary relationships. “Not the educators nor the legislators nor the scientists can give us tranquillity of heart, and without tranquillity, whatever else they give us is useless at best.” Tozer commented that in this world people are rated by what they do. They are rated according to the distance they have come up the hill of achievement.
Tozer believed that excessive preoccupation with the struggle to win narrows the mind, hardens the heart, and blots out a thousand bright visions that might be enjoyed if there were only leisure to notice them. No one, said Tozer, is worthy to succeed unless he is willing to fail. Jesus died an apparent failure, discredited by the leaders of established religion, rejected by society, and forsaken by his friends. We can afford to follow Jesus to failure. Faith, says Tozer, dares to fail. Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate reason why failure and crosses need not intimidate us.
One hundred and twelve years after his birth, Dr. A.W. Tozer still serves as a symbol of resurrected hope and wisdom in our fragmented age.
The Reverend Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
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