On Living with Purpose: Homesick Excerpt, Chapter 3

As Mae West famously quipped, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Take your short life and make it count.

Jesus, in 33 years, seemed not to accomplish very much. His little band of followers was terrifically ordinary, despised by the world, and short on courage. Jesus himself wrote no books and began no rebellion. No doubt the Pharisees and the Romans both were fairly smug to get Jesus out of the picture. Well, that’s over. Of course, they underestimated him a tad. One life, fully lived, epic. You protest that Jesus had an edge, being God and all. True. But he left his mission in the hands of those ragtag followers, eleven scaredy-cat fishermen and a handful of ostracized women. A team about the size of a pair of small groups in a suburban church changed the world. What’s your small group done lately?

That was snarky; I apologize. But there is unquestionably a disconnect between the lifestyle of the Acts 4 church and the post-modern American congregation. The early church keenly felt its life-or-death, do-or-die situation. To follow Christ was downright dangerous, and not to be done lightly.

Missionary in Cairo's Garbage City
Missionary in Cairo’s Garbage City

As it has been for every persecuted generation since, there was a heightened sense of urgency linked with the call to Christ. So when the believers in Acts 4 share all that they have, they are not attempting to set up a communist nation, they are circling the wagons. They pray not in regularly scheduled, reserved meetings, but in desperation, and the place where they pray is shaken. When they ladle soup to the needy, it is to their own flesh and blood. Service is not tacked-on, it is vocation.

What do we treasure above all else? Scan our checkbooks and our calendar, and you will see. We prize comfort, stimulation, cleverness, amenities, programs, inspiration. We do not give until it hurts. We do not pour out our lives for people who quite frankly make us uncomfortable. As the Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “Wherever the Apostle Paul went, there was a riot or a revival. Wherever I go, they serve tea.” Membership in a church is rather like membership in a country club, one with very nice teapots. Perhaps it should be more like membership in a gym; we expect to sweat, to strain, to run an extra mile.

See Eternally: Homesick, Part 2

In the waiting, do you lose heart? God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The hiddenness of God does not indicate his absence, his apathy, or even his inaction, just our own blindness. We can’t see God or his host of angels any more than we can see electrons whirling around in our fingertip. That doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

imageInfants enter the world without the ability to trust the invisible. Peek-a-boo is startling to a baby because the baby cannot fathom that Dad, having disappeared, is still in the building. Psychologists say that developing a sense of “object permanence” is one of the first milestones of an infant’s cognitive growth. So it is for the born again. Christ, the Rock, must be to us a permanent object, or we are forever stunted, spiritual babies, subject to panic. Where is he? I can’t see him! I have been waiting five whole minutes!

In the waiting, faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is unnecessary when visual evidence is in supply. Should God condescend to give you a roadmap of his plans, you can hang your faith on a hook and rely on divine GPS. In the meantime, faith is the choice of a blind man to trust another’s eyes, to trust enough to run.

While we wait, heaven, too, is waiting. In Hebrews, we read that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, believers gone before us, cheering us on. Run, therefore, even when you are afraid and blind. The finish line is near. The stands are packed, the cheering is a roar. The reward is sweet.

“If I weep,” sang Rich Mullins, “let it be as a man who is longing for his home.” Are you homesick? What a home you have to look forward to.

In Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation we are treated to bizarre descriptions of heaven, relayed by people powerless to articulate what they have been privileged to see. No time traveling involved, mind you — what they glimpsed of heaven was there all along, is there even now, out of sight. The veil briefly lifted, the vision cleared, and hey ho! More than meets the eye. A crystal-clear sea, a city gleaming like jewels, the river of life overhung with orchards straight from Eden… above all, seated high on a throne, the King of Kings, so magnificent in power and glory that even the seraphim cover their eyes, overcome with perpetual awe. This is your home. Seeing eternally means seeing with eyes of faith what we cannot yet see with eyes brown, blue, or green, and translating that faith into footsteps.