Think about all that our society has to offer.
Cable with hundreds (thousands!) of channels. Full refrigerators. iPhones with endless apps. Home-delivered groceries. Uber. YouTube. Hours of playlists. VRBO vacations. Steady employment. Good schools. Deep friendships. Responsible colleagues. Insurance (car, health, homeowner’s). Heat in the winter. A/C in the summer. Health clubs. Super Target. Running shoes. Comforters. Flatscreen HDTV. Social media. FaceTime. Recreational sports. Twenty-four hour pharmacies. DVR. River cruises. Megamalls. Television sports all the time.
But is it enough?
Just consider what English poet, T.S. Eliot, had to say.
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
The timekept City,
Where My Word is unspoken,
In the land of lobelias and tennis flannels
The rabbit shall burrow and the thorn revisit,
The nettle shall flourish on the gravel court,
And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”
Have you ever felt that emptiness? The emptiness of asphalt and a thousand lost golf balls?
I have. More than I care to admit.
It happens when I am most distant from God. When I immerse myself in work or pleasure. When I am not quiet and fail to listen. When I get lost and forget that God is with me. That’s when I smell the asphalt and feel the meaninglessness of a thousand lost golf balls.
But is this surprising?
It shouldn’t be.
The Old Testament’s weeping prophet Jeremiah articulated our misstep twenty-six hundred years ago,
Two evils my people have done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
(Oh, how we love our broken cisterns.)
Before long, Jesus Christ – God Himself – leveled his gaze at broken men and women (like you and me) and said,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And if you look at the entirety of the Gospel story, you hear God tell us again and again that there is an answer to the emptiness of asphalt and a thousand lost golf balls. But it doesn’t rest in power, pleasure, honor or wealth. It won’t be found on YouTube or golf outings or professional accolades or cable television. No. The malaise, the acedia, the melancholy, the angst, the restlessness of our hearts will end only, as St. Augustine told us, when it rests in him.
But we need to be quiet. We need to hear his voice. And we need to believe it.
And why shouldn’t we. After all, consider what Christ says,
Don’t worry. Though it will be hard, here is how to do it. It will be alright. I will never leave you. Ever.
In our fear, confusion, weakness, and uncertainty, though we fret, we can rest assured.
And so we must build. Ourselves and others into a discerning and loving culture
As Eliot once wrote,
The good man is the builder if he build what is good.
I will show you the things that are now being done,
That you may take heart. Make perfect your will.
Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.
In the timekept city of buzzing cars and bustling lives, the Temple of the Lord is brushed by, unconsidered, ignored.
Let’s change that. T.S. Eliot would agree.
Now you shall see the Temple completed:
After much striving, after many obstacles;
For the work of creation is never without travail;
The formed stone, the visible crucifix,
The dressed altar, the lifting light,
The visible reminder of Invisible Light.
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