Ebenezer means "stone of help," and was the name of a monument raised by the prophet Samuel, saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped us." (1 Sam. 7:12) The hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing includes the line, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come." Through God's grace you and I have made it to today. Our job is to praise God for getting us here and trust him to bring us through tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finding What You're Looking For

Jeremiah 29:13  "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

I often fiddle with the radio as I'm driving, flipping from one station to the next hoping to land on something worth listening to.  The other night I happened to land on one station just as U2 was beginning this classic:
I have climbed the highest mountains 
I have run through the fields 
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
Several U2 songs have religious undertones, few more so than I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.  It is a song of yearning and searching, and even 25 years after it came out (yes, 25 years next month -- believe it or not) it still holds the power to evoke deep feelings for listeners.  It touches upon [dare I say it] existential thoughts that virtually every individual carries, no matter how rarely we want to examine them.  That aspect of the song, more than its aesthetic qualities, may be the true point of its staying power.  It makes us, when we hear it on the radio, alone on a stretch of highway, think of the big questions.  It forces us to ask what we are doing here, where we are headed, and what we want our final destination to be.

"Seeking" is a big term in the modern church.  It captures various aspects of our culture -- a consumerism that allows us to sample and try on various forms of faith as we look for the one most right for us; the abstract, unplanned way of the modern pilgrim, searching for spiritual completeness amidst the wilderness of modernity; and beyond that the frustration of the beginning believer in the face of contradictory, competing, and confusing options among churches, denominations, and traditions.  The modern church has an eye on the seekers, as we hope to bring them into our doors and convince them ours is the best club to join.  

Rather, we should convince the seeker that finding a church, finding a community, is the least part of their task.  It can be difficult and even frustrating, but it is secondary to the wonder of finding God himself.  We too often want to make the pilgrimage process for the modern seeker harder than it needs to be.  We need instead to remind them that Jesus Christ is not out there somewhere, waiting for us to find him.  He isn't hiding; instead, he's the one looking for us.  He's the one who initiates the contact.  Opening the door to his quiet knocking is not a hard process -- or, it doesn't need to be.  It is not reliant on finding the right this or that.  It is reliant on one thing only: our willingness to say, Yes, I believe.

U2 sings of the long search for meaning and joy in this broken world of ours -- searching through this sordid world, looking for the answers in relationships and in ideologies.  We've all been there.  Even when we think we know the answers, sometimes we only know them in book form:
I believe in the Kingdom Come 
Then all the colors will bleed into one 
Bleed into one
But, yes, I'm still running

You broke the bonds 

And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame 
Oh, my shame
You know I believe it
Many children -- many adults, for that matter-- have learned these things as facts, but never accepted them as matters of deep faith.  They end up looking for a truth they already know, but don't know how to accept.  And we convince them all too often that they need to go searching for their answer.  In reality, God is trying every day to give the answer to them. Decades ago the Christian writer A.W. Tozer published a classic book he called, The Pursuit of God. It is about forming a deeper relationship with God, but it is so poorly named.  God does not need to be pursued.  That implies he is running away.  Quite the contrary, God is always there; if anything, God pursues us.  He is always next to us, waiting for us to simply open our hearts to his grace.  It may seem more complicated than that, but it's really not.  It's all about surrendering; not pursuing, or searching, or seeking, but surrendering.  That can indeed be a hard thing for us to do, but the difficulty lies within us, not in the roadblocks around us.  Until we learn to surrender, and accept the presence of God right here and right now, right where we are, we too will continue to say, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.