We’re always looking for that new place, that new experience, that perfect frame of mind; perhaps it’s better sometimes just to be glad right where we are. It’s true that, in general, people are never quite satisfied, they always want more, want bigger, want better, want a better TV or a newer faster car or a bigger house, and it seems absolutely certain that rich people can never have enough money. In all of this, in all of this yearning and wanting to be more than we are, to be richer, to be more fulfilled, are we sometimes missing the very point, the very reason for existence? Does all our ambition to be wealthy, to have a holiday home in the sun, a swimming pool in the back garden and an expensive car in the drive have a point? Often those who have attained fame, or great wealth or both don’t necessarily seem to be any happier than anyone else, and those millions upon millions who wish everyday to be rich but don’t attain it seem to be unhappy. How many people caught up in the rat race really stop and think for even a second whether what they so vainly pursue is really what they want, or is someone else’s idea of what they should want? How many of us just stop and ask ourselves just what it is we do want out of life? Let’s get this out of the way straightaway: most people would rather be well off than poor, who wouldn’t, but the reality is that there is more to life than the acquisition of money. If money really solved our problems then all rich people would be deliriously happy, even people with hundreds of thousands of pounds would be happy, but from where I’m standing the only thing that seems to make very rich people happy, for a time anyway, is the acquiring of more and more money, an endless pointless quest that never seems to end. Is there another way?
Break on Through (to the Other Side)
When people find themselves in personal situations they don’t like, be it because they live in a bad rundown area or they are poor or they don’t have employment or because they are depressed, and many other things besides, their desire is to escape and find a new life, far away from the madness and chaos and unhappiness they feel they are in. ‘My heart writhes within me, the terrors of death come upon me, fear and trembling overwhelm me, and shuddering grips me. And I say, 'Who will give me wings like a dove, to fly away and find rest?' How far I would escape, and make a nest in the desert!’ (Psalms 55:4-7 NJB) For a time in my life, I could identify completely with these words. But even if someone isn’t troubled or confused or depressed, there is a desire in many people to break through to another kind of life, where everything is perfect, where there is no disharmony or trouble and where everything works out for the good. This sentiment, this yearning, can possibly be expressed in ways as different as there are human beings on the planet. But there is a desire in me, and has been at various times, to be living a completely different life and a completely different lifestyle, far from my old ways and far from my past, somewhere new, somewhere different and exciting. I don’t think I am the only one however.
It isn’t just that I wanted to get away from everything in my old life, but that I also wanted a completely different outlook, a completely different mind-set to go with my new life. We hope and dream for new beginnings, new horizons, new ways of looking at things, a fresh start somewhere else, far from troubles and illnesses, far from cantankerous and troublesome people, far from money worries and little piddling concerns.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
We all dream of making it in some way, making it big, perhaps proving to the world we aren’t losers, we do have something going for us and we are worth listening to. Somewhere over the rainbow lies our dream, forever out of reach, somewhere in our dreams lies our perfect situation, the perfect little cottage far from everywhere in lush green fields and surrounded by little woods and copses and not too far from the coast, but private enough to allow us to live the dream. All humans have their dreams, we are but one amongst billions dreaming their dreams; perhaps our dreams are all different but our yearnings are only too human. What lies behind our dreams; an ideal world, unhappiness, greed or something bigger and better? Are they dreams put there by God or are they just human yearnings? And, do these dreams make us happy or do they make us unhappy because we feel we might never attain them? Are they just, after all, pipe dreams?
How do we square our dreams and ambitions with what God has planned for us? Can they be one and the same thing? Is there a better life just over the horizon, just beyond the clouds and behind the sunset? When we live even mundane and sometimes monotonous lives we can dream of better things, better circumstances, better emotional and better spiritual lives. Somewhere over the rainbow lies a better life, a better relationship with God, better economic circumstances and a life that will be like a dream, only that it will be real. Can God make our dreams reality? I certainly think He can.
Exile on Main Street
We are exiles in a foreign country, a strange world, a world that is hostile to love and justice, that is hostile to concern for other people. Those who are called by God to live apart from most other people, yet at the same time live amongst other people, are pulled in different directions. We are gladiators in the arena, fighting our corner and the wild beasts of the world, knowing no peace and knowing we are not children of this world but children of the next world. We are exiles, waiting to come home, living in Babylon, living in what appears to be sophistication and the height of luxury, but what in the end is only temporal and illusory, a delusion that will end when God stops dreaming and awakes, and we awake with Him, to a new and glorious life. At the same time, though we prepare for our true home, we can at least get comfortable in this world and find happiness and peace here on earth.
In the film ‘Noah’s Ark’, starring Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen amongst others, Noah’s friend Lot asks Him ‘How did you find this God?’ Noah answers, quickly but quietly and succinctly ‘I don’t know.’ If only we were all as honest as this, and instead of proclaiming our vast intelligence and superior knowledge, we just replied when we don’t know: ‘I don’t know!’ How much better and simpler would all human relations and relationships be if we were all so honest!? In truth, if anyone is honest, any Christian that is, how can we understand God’s pull and influence on our lives, and how do we really know how He enters our lives, in what way and perhaps the most vexing question of all; why?
So we are exiles, in a foreign land, a strange world, but we have a mighty God who lights our way and will lead us to the Promised Land, the place we’ve been looking for all our lives.