Posted in Faith

On Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias passed away yesterday.

For him, it was going home. But for us, it’s a time to remember how he touched our lives.

In 1982 (or thereabouts) Ravi Zacharias came to Syracuse and spoke to the college-and-career group at the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church where Bud and I were members. Using the creation story, he spoke about the two different types of thinkers — collative and creative.

A collative thinker, he said, gathers information and puts it in order, while a creative thinker gathers information and uses it to create something “new”.

My sister collates. She sat one day last fall in the family room with a box that contained a mish-mash of papers from my mother’s desk. Patiently she sorted through the whole thing, making neat little piles and clipping like things togethers.

“This is what I do,” she said to me when I poked my head in. “I bring order.”

And she does. Really well.

She’s also creative. She once wrote a series of articles for her church newsletter from the perspective of the church’s cat.  I think she would agree with me though that on the spectrum that runs from Collative to Creative, she falls on the Collative end of things.

Andrew Peterson is first person I think on the Creative side. Singer, songwriter, author, artist. The man has creativity oozing out his pores.

But he’s also collative in the sense of learning from others. In the Wingfeather Saga (his book series for young and old alike), I see bits and pieces of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, two of his literary heroes. In his songs, I sometimes hear shades of Rich Mullins.

I have pondered the collative-creative spectrum for years.

When I heard Ravi Zacharias speak the second time, some 14 years after the first, I talked to him about his collative-creative talk. I said, “I’ve been trying to figure out since then what kind of thinker I am.”

He smiled at me and said, “One thing is clear — you are a thinker.”

We were at Sandy Cove (or was is Harvey Cedars?), a Christian retreat center, when I heard him that second time. As clearly as I remember the collative-creative talk, I remember him standing on a stage reciting Percy Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias.  It was part recitation and part performance.  I remember the timbre of his voice enhanced by his accent as he raised and lowered the volume at which he spoke, his gestures perfectly marking these words:

…And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I can still hear it.

In that same talk, he read a prayer.

“Who wrote that prayer?” I later asked him.

He told me her name (which I don’t remember), and then said, “She’s a French mystic.”

It was the first time I had ever heard of Christian mysticism. I felt like a door that I didn’t know existed had been opened for me.

Since then Christian mysticism has been a growing interest. I have an ever-expanding collection of prayer books and books about prayer. My ears perk up when I hear (or read) about any Christian mystic. Because I long to experience the presence of God in my small life, reading about others’ encounters with Him thrills me — and mystics have the most interesting stories.

That tiny spark started by a few words from Ravi Zacharias has since been fanned into flame.

Today, I remember Ravi Zacharias. I remember his warmth, his intellect, his sincerity, and how my brief encounters with him have helped me in my personal walk with God.