I’ve been thinking lately about another sense of the phrase, “Going Home.” So often we live day to day at the surface of things. We skip along dealing with a dirty kitchen floor, or the need to run to the grocery store for bread and milk, or thinking about Brett Favre's passing game. We spend the vast majority of our time and energy dealing with what is urgent, but not important. I’m not saying that details should be ignored, not at all. But what does so often get ignored is the center of our being, the deeper matters of our lives. We live at the surface and only rarely go home to the core of who we are.
Now I realize that for some people, the idea of spending a lot of time thinking about deeper things is either terrifying or nauseating. Some people just don’t want to dig that deep, and by nature they are not created with that inward-looking tendency. That’s fine. But many others have been conditioned not to look at life in any depth because when they’ve tried to think beyond the surface, others have mocked them or disagreed with them or trivialized their insights.
One of the chief ways I see this is the tendency we have to stifle the questions of children. Three-year-olds are born theologians. I’ve heard more great questions from three year olds. Last summer a very young man, encouraged (rightly) by his parents, stopped me in the parking lot of a local park to ask me a question. Knowing I was a pastor, his parents brought his question to me to affirm and validate his curiosity. “Who created God?” he wanted to know. We had a great 90-second theological conversation about it. He was satisfied, but more important his search for answers and meaning was affirmed by his parents. Too often parents, uncomfortable with questions they can’t answer or questions that embarrass them (“Where did I come from?” or “Why do things die?”) teach children not to ask. Sometimes this is overt -- “Don’t ask questions like that.” But more often it happens when our discomfort is apparent to our children and they recognize that they have done something unacceptable. Dad is in a rush so when the question comes up, he snaps, “I don’t know,” and changes the subject or ignores the follow-up questions. Soon his child recognizes that asking such questions is, to borrow a biblical phrase, chasing after the wind. And the child learns not to ask, not to think on a deeper level, not to ponder. Tragedy. Because God created a curiosity in the heart of that child, and it has been stifled.
Last night I was privileged to sit with the 9th grade confirmation class at Central. Curt and Ryan and I sat on chairs up front and we took a solid hour just to try to answer some of the questions these young men and women have been asking throughout the fall. What fun! We talked about how the Bible was written, why divorce and tragedy and sin and death and evil exist, whether the world will end in 2012, what is the difference between “heaven” and “eternal life,” and lots more. Great questions. Curt, who is the primary leader of this group, has done an outstanding job teaching them that it is okay to ask questions.
The Bible says that God has placed eternity in the human heart. This expresses itself in many ways -- our sense of beauty, or our need for relationships. But another way this comes out is that we long to look into the heart of things, to ask hard questions, to seek after God and the things of eternity. It is one way God has created us with a hunger to know him. Asking these hard questions, reflecting on deeper things, going to the core of who we are, is in a very real sense like Going Home. It is who we are created to be.
So just in case this is a struggle for you, here are three questions to get you pondering today.
- Who has most deeply influenced my spiritual life, and how?
- Why do I do the things I do that have negative consequences?
- What one thing could I change to give God more access to my life?