My house was an absolute mess. Toys were scattered around the floors, doors to the outside stood open and flies came in to forage, grass and dirt littered the floor, and random cups, plates and shoes were all littered about. It was chaos. For several hours we had enjoyed the fellowship of company, 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, 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.
Have you ever experienced a similar scenario? 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 after coming home from a trip. The journey was fun, the experience novel, but coming home offered 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. Then: 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 and 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 Confessions: “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.
Peace. Joy. Contentment. Sabbath rest.
These are the real reasons we gather together each Sunday in our congregations, seeking answers and peace, hoping for the transformative power we believe the service can bring to our lives.
Cultivating a love and longing for the Kingdom of God in our hearts suddenly gives us an order and a mission to life. It points us in the right direction. With the Kingdom of God, and all it entails, as our primary focus, we place our lives on a particular path, a narrow way, but a way that points in very definite and distinct direction. The path tells us what to prioritize, what to seek first. Isn’t this what we would call becoming a disciple?
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, we were picking our family motto for the year and at that particular time, (as in most times) I was living with a frustrated longing for what was to come rather than a joy in living out the present. My husband decided that we all needed to be embracing the joy of living in the moment and not letting precious years pass us by. So that year, we adopted the theme “Enjoying the Journey.” But somehow it 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.
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.” 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)”.
Are you finding Joy in your journey or is your soul downcast? The heart of man will never be satisfied with the chaos that comes from an unclear destination. Let us learn to re-calibrate and stay on the path that leads to life and peace, God’s Kingdom way.