My house felt like an absolute mess. Toys were scattered around the floors, doors to the outside stood open with flies coming in to forage, grass and dirt littered the floor, and random cups, plates and shoes were all strewn about. AAARRRGGGHHHHH!! It felt like chaos!
For several hours we had enjoyed the fellowship of company being over, of entertaining and eating, but now the day was drawing to a close and I felt restless. It was time to get things back into their place, to bring some order to the madness. It was time to see my kids bathed and in jammies, tucked away in cozy beds. It was time to load the dishes into the dishwasher and hear its gentle hum reassuring me that they would all be clean and new by morning. It was time to pick up the clutter and restore each item to its rightful place. A couple of hours later, company all gone and mopping all completed, I surveyed the new order of things and felt a great sense of relief – sigh….
Everything was back in its rightful place and I was at rest.
Have you ever experienced this scenario? Maybe it wasn’t about your house. Maybe you had a child away at camp or college and once they were home you felt a sense of relief as if all was back in order once again. You may have felt it coming home from a trip. The journey was fun, the experience novel but coming home gave a sense of coming back to your true north, just as a compass continuously rights itself and is at ease when its red arrow gravitates back to its correct place. There is a right order to things. There is a place where things and people belong and, though we may not always be conscious of it, we are restless until that place is restored.
The start of a new school year always feels to me like order has been restored. Schedules are back and routines rev up once again. My home feels a little more routine and stable and I feel that I am back in my element as a domestic theologian, training my children and feeding them well (sort of). Enter football practices, youth group meetings, last minute projects and late night pizza. Chaos inevitably tries to pull us back into his lair like the spider to the fly but we can resist!
St. Augustine, a bishop in North Africa during the latter years of the Roman Empire, relayed this very idea in his book Confessions when he wrote: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” Even our hearts yearn for a place of order and rest that, whether we realize it or not, we are continuously striving for:
…these are the real reasons we gather together each Sunday in our congregations, seeking answers and peace and hoping for the transformative power we believe the service can bring to our lives.
Augustine’s quote caught my attention and connected with what I already described above- a feeling of relief once everything is in its rightful place. So, what determines a rightful place? In speaking of objects I suppose it is wherever it usually stays in your home – the place it belongs. When speaking of our lives it is not so easy to be objective. How do we, as human beings determine our rightful place of being? According to Augustine once we find that place we also find rest, something we all long for deeply at our core.
In Hebrews 4 there is the echo of a similar longing for a place of rest. The general idea of the chapter is that God’s people have longed for a place of rest – a Promised Land – but their longing was frustrated and due to disobedience or distractions they failed to enter that rest. Thankfully, Hebrews 4 reiterates that there is still a rest for the people of God and we find that rest in Jesus. He is our ultimate Sabbath. He is our peace.
When Jesus came to walk the earth, he came preaching the Kingdom of God. As New Testament believers we can enter into rest through faith in Christ, yet we still must do life in this world. Spiritually, we are restored back to our rightful “place,” just as Augustine described, yet anyone who has lived much time on this earth knows that there is more to it than that. There is a manifesting of this rest, this peace in our day-to-day lives. We still have decisions to make, children to raise, bills to pay and relationships to navigate. We must also take up our place in the Kingdom of God as creative makers and culture influencers. As Christians in the world we are not called to “run and hide” but to “GO”….yet our comings and goings should look distinctly different from the rest of the world and our motives should be distinct as well
As believers who have already called on Jesus, how do we find our sense of place in the world today? What is the real answer to the riddle “in the world but not of it?” It is learning to live in the Kingdom of God. It is allowing the peace of God to speak order into our ordinary lives and then allowing our lives to speak back to Him:
Commission versus ambition
Gratitude versus entitlement
To human is to be on a constant quest. Cultivating a love and longing for the Kingdom of God gives us an order and a mission to life. It points us in the right direction, so to speak. With the Kingdom of God, and all it entails, as our primary focus, we are suddenly placing our lives on a particular path, a narrow way, but a way that points in very definite and distinct direction. We are on a mission! The path tells us what to prioritize, what to seek first. Isn’t this what we would call becoming a disciple? We actually make disciples by teaching people to love the kingdom of God!
So, this love for the Kingdom of God and His ways places us on a definite path, one that has a particular destination….for our destination matters very deeply to us. James KA Smith says, we all “live leaning forward, bent on arriving at the place we long for”. So, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, we must regularly re-calibrate our hearts so that we stay true to the path that will take us to our desired destination.
Several years ago now, my family was choosing a motto for the year and at that particular time – as in most times – I felt more of frustrated longing for what was to come than a joy in living out the present. My husband decided that we all needed to embrace the joy of living in the moment, and not let precious years pass us by. We adopted the theme “Enjoying the Journey,” but it somehow felt a little too chaotic and irresponsible to me… sort of like “Eat, drink and Be Merry”! Sounds fun, right? But while those carefree themes capture the level of joy and contentment we want to live in, they say nothing of the ultimate aim of our lives – of where we belong.
The first catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” and gives as its calibrating response, “The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” This is our destination: Bringing glory to God. This is living in the Kingdom. So, our life theme has become. “Enjoying the Journey (lest we forget and become discontent), while never forgetting the Destination (our chief end).”