I think back to elementary school. I can still see the dry erase board in Mrs. Mason’s classroom that was a tinge off-white because it had not been thoroughly cleaned in some time. Those uncomfortable blue plastic chairs. Glossy waxed floors. And the fact that the only educational constant, whether you find yourself in first grade or eighth grade, is that those classrooms are cold — every single morning.
But I also remember recess. I remember around the start of fourth grade this weird phenomenon began to take place where girls began to chase boys around the playground — and vise versa. Like the dog who chases a car but has no idea what to do when he finally catches it, we would run. Run for the sake of running without understanding why.
Eventually, we all would wise up and stop running. The game did not stop, but the tactics changed. The psychological ebb and flow took precedence. Why spend the time running in circles when you can do the same sitting at a table? Hearts that once raced to the tempo of nimble feet, still race but to a different pattern of coded innuendoes and allusive text messages.
No, this is not an article about dating or relationships.
We are talking about the pursuit, though. That chase we are all apart of whether we are aware of it or not. Before we were old enough for our feet to carry our stride. Before we could run the mulched playground. Before our neurons established enough lateralization to decipher the cryptology of flirting.
In the twenty-first century, we have all become cryptographers of text messages — linguistic experts of emoticons.
Before the race, which uses chemistry as its fuel, there began a race for your soul. The pursuit you would embark on with a final destination being your eternal destination. The pursuit of eternity. Solomon reminds us that deep within there lies a seed to be cultivated. A journey to be found:
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT).
This journey, intentional or not, in which you have embarked is the most important journey of your life because fundamentally it is the journey of your life. Your pursuit of God. It is this desire to know him and his purpose for your life that makes articles like my last post on the calling so personal. Because the call that I hear is different from the call that you hear.
We are all pursuing. Paul found himself positioned for the end,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8, ESV).
What rests at the end of your race? Do you find yourself standing before a Righteous Judge hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, ESV)?
* * * * *
Ray Bradbury wrote a short story entitled The Man. The engaging story is about a space traveling Captain Hart who pilots his crew and rocket to a planet where a mysterious man has just left. The mayor of the planet tells the Captain that being from Earth, they should be familiar with the man, as he was on Earth about two-thousand years ago. The allusions to Christ are numerous.
Captain Hart is resolute that he will pilot his rocket planet-by-planet until he can finally catch up to The Man. This is the closing dialogue of the story referring to Captain Hart,
“And he’ll go on, planet after planet, seeking and seeking, and always he will be an hour late, or a half hour late, or ten minutes late, or a minute late. And finally he will miss out by only a few seconds. And when he has visited three hundred worlds and is seventy or eighty years old he will miss out by only a fraction of a second, on and on, thinking to find that very thing which he left behind here, on this planet, in this city” (Bradbury, 2012, p. 77).
I find Bradbury’s Captain Hart so aptly named as he allegorizes the breakneck pursuit of the heart in such a beautiful way. We seem to spend our entires lives chasing. Whether we are chasing girls on the playground, success in the workplace, happiness at the bottom of a bottle, or simply chasing ourselves — we are always moving and rarely attaining.
Augustine of Hippo discovered this reality centuries ago when he said, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you” (Confessions).
The reality that we must all face though is that our hearts, like Captain Hart, tend to run to the beat of our own rhythm without any real sense of direction or intent. Like the perpetual carrot before us, our desires rest just ahead. But upon ascertaining them, we discover the pleasure is fleeting and the desire still there.
* * * * *
Sometimes our desires and pursuits in life seem to veer us off course, and we find ourselves outside the path that we intended to venture. Maybe by intent. Maybe by accident. The me I seem to be and the me I desire to be are juxtaposed.
In Psychology, we talk about possible selves which are the constructs we create about ourselves to regulate who we are and who we desire to be. Simply put, we use the constructed representation of the self we desire to become (possible selves) to act as a guidance system that regulates the actions of our actual self (who you are right now) and as a means of motivating us beyond the person we are today (Bak, 2015, p. 651-652).
But the point is that sometimes our actual self and our possible self are so different that we cannot discern a way back to who we want to be. Like the Galatians, whom Paul prodded, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth” (Galatians 5:7, ESV). Fortunately, we have the Bible to help us out here.
Jesus, looking at the tax collectors and sinners that were around him tells a profound parable. He speaks of a Shepherd who when he looses one sheep of his flock of one hundred, he leaves the ninety-nine to search for the single lost sheep. Then, once the single sheep is discovered, he carries it back home and celebrates the return with all of his friends (Luke 15:3-7).
The parable will never cease to be relevant because the Shepherd has come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10, ESV). We realize here that even in our blinding pursuits in this world, The Shepard is pursuing each of us today. David stumbled upon this landmine of a revelation, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me” (Psalm 139:1, ESV).
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6, NIV). Love’s pursuit. The audacity of grace. The impudence of mercy. He gave his life to pursue you all of your life.
Ultimately, the pursuit comes back to that daily stroll Adam and God shared. A man walking with his creator. A Creator walking with his creation.
“I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me’”
(Francis Thompson, 2009, 5-15).
Augustine. (2006). Confessions (W. Watts, Ed.). Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.
Bak, W. (2015). Possible Selves: Implications for Psychotherapy. International Journal Of Mental Health & Addiction, 13(5), 650-658. doi:10.1007/s11469-015-9553-2.
Bradbury, R. (2012). The illustrated man. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Thompson, F. (2009). The Oxford book of English mystical verse (D. H. Nicholson & A. H. Lee, Eds.). Oxford: The Clarendon Press.