A few days ago it was the word “consider,” a very ordinary word. Or is it? Why did it suddenly strike me so?
With my knowledge of Latin, it occurred to me that “consider” has something to do with the stars, for the Latin word sidera means “stars” or “heavenly bodies.” How interesting! I have used the word for about fifty years now and that had never crossed my mind. But as sometimes happens I was too busy to check it out right away and moved on to other things, the insight forgotten.
But then yesterday, while working on another article I am currently writing, I referred to Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and there it was again:
You must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11).
“Okay Lord, I got the message. You want me to consider the word ‘consider.’ There’s something mystical and spiritual about it isn’t there, Lord?” The Lord didn’t need to answer me. After prayer I spent some time checking out my hypothesis.
Sure enough, the word “consider” comes from the Latin root words cum and sidera meaning literally “with the stars.”
The dictionary provides the following meanings for the word consider: to think about carefully, to think of especially with regard to taking some action, to take into account, to regard or treat in an attentive or kindly way, to gaze on steadily or reflectively, to come to regard.
And all these meanings are true enough.
But the root meaning, referring to the stars, brings the word so much more alive. My definition would include this notion: to reflect on as if pondering the stars, to gaze as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully and reflectively as when looking up and out at the night sky.
Yes, to look up and out, billions of miles out into the vastness of space with over 100 billion galaxies and untold numbers of stars in each. Yes, to “consider” in its literal root is to base our thoughts in the perspective of the stars. This fills us with wonder and awe, reminds us of the extravagance of God’s love, and humbles us by the sheer vastness of all the things that God has done. It is to see by the light of God’s glory and His expansive love. To consider is to think in a way that sees the present moment as caught up in something far more vast and ancient than the mere here and now. It is to experience this moment, this place and time, as part of something more vast and ancient than we can imagine.
And thus in St. Paul’s admonition you must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus, we are being invited to grasp that God’s mercy and love are bigger than any sin we may have committed. We are summoned to look beyond the present moment and to behold with wonder and awe the perfection that God has already accomplished.
And as we see and behold that reality, we start to live out of it now. As we cast our thoughts out among the stars, as we think cum sidera, we look outward and upward from the present reality to the glory waiting for us in Heaven. And, as St Paul exhorts, making this “consideration” helps that reality begin to break in to the present moment and become ever more real to us and for us.
As it breaks in, sins begin to be put to death and virtues to come alive. Our life begins to change as we see beyond the present moment, in which there may be weakness and pain, to the victory that is ours and is so much bigger that this mere moment. And thus we become alive to God in Christ Jesus.
All this from one word. Consider: to reflect as if pondering the stars, to gaze as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully and reflectively as when one looks up and out at the night sky.
Yes, words are wonderful and many of them are mystical. Think about it: the stars get you to look up and out, to gaze beyond with wonder and awe, to consider.
It’s not a bad thing to do when seeking perspective or pondering paths, when searching for answers, for meaning, for God.
Give it some consideration.