Due to the lockdown we cannot ensure that our people recieve their church magazine, so we include it here for free: July & August Magazine
As I write this in mid-June areas of lockdown are being lifted, and we are starting to be able to do some of the things which we used to do. As you read this in July I hope that more restrictions have been lifted and that we are further along the road back to a more normal way of life. I wonder which activities you have most looked forward to doing? Perhaps, it is seeing friends and loved ones; gathering in small and large groups with those from whom you have been separated.; chatting and laughing, hugging and catching up. Perhaps, it is going back to restaurants and eating meals cooked by other people; steak and red wine, fancy puddings, and proper coffee. Perhaps, it is returning to church and being able to sing your favourite hymns, praying and studying God’s word together. As much as you have perhaps grown in your own devotions, as much as you have sung hymns in the bath or when watching Songs of Praise you are still looking forward to doing these things in our church building. There is much to look forward to. I wonder what comes to mind for you?
As we return to these things, however, we need to be aware that the novelty will pass. That those activities which we long to do, when we have done them a few times, will most likely lose their immediate appeal. After the hugs, the chats, and the catching up with friends and families, arguments will happen. After we have gorged ourselves on good food, and good coffee in our favourite eatery or coffee shop, we will find that we have had too much of a good thing. After we have sung our favourite hymns, and visited our church building, and have listened to another series of sermons, we will begin to find boredom creeping back in. Our hearts desire good things, but soon find the good things we have in mind do not satisfy for long. Once we have tasted the things we want, we find the satisfaction of having those things soon passes, and we look for something more. What is going on? Why will nothing satisfy forever?
C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite authors, points us to the answer when he says: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Good things in this life, like friends and family, like good food and good wine, and like beautiful church buildings and beautiful worship are signs which are meant to point past themselves to the world for which we were made. To a world where we will be together with our Christian loved ones - friends and family - eating good food and good wine, and worshipping God, not just for days or weeks but for centuries and millennia. The things we love in this life are but small and imperfect glimpses of a far better and more lasting world. These signs are not eternity and will not last, but they point to an eternity which by definition will last forever. Too often though we stop and are satisfied with the sign. For example, we find good food satisfies for a while, and we eat more and more, and get an ever-diminishing return, until the food we once loved no longer satisfies at all. We get distracted by good things, we get distracted by the signs, and do not follow where they point. This is why God won’t let us be satisfied by these good things for long. God doesn’t want us to stay focused on the sign, rather He wants us to follow the sign to something which will fully satisfy, and the only thing which will fully satisfy us is Himself. As the Church Father, St Augustine, wrote: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” Our hearts are not satisfied with this world, for they were made for another. Our hearts were made for God, and nothing else will successfully fill the void.
So as we are gradually released and allowed back into the arms of our family and friends, as we are allowed to return to our restaurants and coffee shops, and as we are allowed back to normal church services, be mindful now that our hearts are longing for good things, good things which God has given us to enjoy, but to enjoy as signposts to an even better place. Enjoy the journey but do not allow the good signs to hold us up for too long before we continue on our path to Him for whom our hearts were made.