I’m writing this while sitting at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., and as one sits in such a place, there are plenty of other things to think about. Even better, there are plenty of things to observe—people, restaurants, shops, golf carts letting out siren chirps to get through the crowds without incident, and even some animals. I’m guessing that someone very important is about to arrive on the flight pulling up to my terminal because a rather large contingent of police officers is gathering near the door to the ramp. There’s a small dog in someone’s lap about ten seats away. I’m kind of hoping it isn’t a “comfort animal” that I’ll be sitting next to for the next two hours on the plane. There’s also a bird hopping from one ceiling joist to the next above me in the domed ceiling. It’s pretty rainy and cold outside right now, so I’m guessing the little guy is trying to keep warm and dry like the rest of us. And as far as I’m concerned, as long as he doesn’t drop anything on me, he’s welcome to stay.
Airports are unusual. But they’re also thought provoking. Looking at the bustle, the never-ending fluidity of things in motion—people moving from one location to the next, seeking a destination and its goals or profits or social company—it’s easy to see how someone like Shakespeare would observe humanity and write: “The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream” (Hamlet, II, ii, 11).
I know he’s not writing from a Biblical perspective, but as I’m sure I’ve shared with you before, folks like Shakespeare—and others for that matter—are worthy of our attention because they have a way of setting objective truths before us even though they may be using somewhat of an existential lens to see them. In other words, sometimes the world betrays a knowledge that there are such things as up and down, yes and no, right and wrong. In context, I think Shakespeare wrote this because he knew that deep down inside of every human being, no matter what we’re chasing in this life, it is most certainly transient. They are shadows of dreams that are here one night and gone the next. And something very important to keep in mind is that Shakespeare is using the term “shadow” to imply the presence of something real casting the shadow. This means that behind all of our pursuits, there’s something else at work, something that would drive the human spirit to continue to chase after things that just won’t last.
This is where the Word of God steps in to offer divine insight. We need God to reveal this to us, otherwise we’ll never truly know the inner workings of the things that matter most—we’ll never really know what’s at stake.
Of course we might be tempted right away to say that “Sin” is the driving force behind all of this, but that would be too easily dismissed by anyone here at the airport who is bustling along because he or she is trying to get home to be with family. In that circumstance, I’d keep it simple and say the love of family is what’s casting the shadow. I wouldn’t even be so hasty as to say that the gentleman down a few seats and across the aisle from me right now, someone I’m guessing is a fairly successful politician or businessman, is motivated to move from one locale to the next because of a greedy heart or a lust for power. For all I know, he could be on his way to a charitable event to give away millions to help people in need, and it could be that he can barely contain himself for the joy of such a thing because he knows how it will glorify Christ.
So, I guess that as I sit here trying to parse these emerging thoughts as I type—thinking out loud on my computer screen—in the end, I land on the somewhat general condition of the human heart as the Word of God reveals it. Yes, the heart is corrupt and sinful. As Christians we already know that any pursuit born of the sinful heart is as a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6). Still, the Bible teaches that God is, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, recreating the hearts of believers to be in pursuit of the life to come even as we must keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of things here on earth (Matthew 6:19-34). Without God reaching into us and accomplishing this, even the attempts to get home to be with a loving family are fruitless endeavors because in the end, outside of His redeeming work, everything comes to an end and is lost. Everything in front of me right now is passing away. This means that outside of faith in Jesus, Death will forever separate the family I see right now standing at the desk at Gate 22 asking for help. But for a family of believers—for people in forward motion seeking to get to an earthly home—such a pursuit can be seen as a mere foreshadowing of their eternal home and the eternal togetherness with those they love to be experienced in the joys of heaven with Christ forever.
Maybe I’m overthinking this. Who knows? I guess that’s what happens when you’re sitting in an airport and have nothing to do but type.
Nevertheless, I guess I’d encourage you to keep these thoughts from your pastor in mind. I’m writing them for your spiritual digestion. Chew on the words. And as you do, ask yourself what is behind your pursuits. Better yet, and at a healthier depth, maybe consider if your pursuits are in some way disconnecting you from Christ and the means by which He feeds you with what is necessary for the recreation of your heart and the hearts of the members of your family. If what you are chasing after is separating you from Jesus, by all means, I beg you to jettison it from your life right now! Stop before it’s too late to see that it’s killing you and your family spiritually. Don’t become so invested in such a pursuit that it becomes your all-in-all in comparison to Christ and casts a shadow from very real spiritual starvation and oncoming doom.
I guess since I’m sort of saying it already, I’ll go ahead and say that I find it strange how Christian families dedicate so much time and effort to things that do this, and then a few years down the line, the parents can’t seem to understand why their kids left the faith altogether. I’ll tell you why they left. The parents taught them what was important to pursue. They learned what was important from mom and dad. I sometimes wish I could arrange a meeting between older parents who are now experiencing heartache from this and younger parents who are right in the middle of making it happen. I think it would be a Jakob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge moment for some. I think eyes would be opened to the dangers, and perhaps this tragedy that’s more than reaching epidemic proportion in churches across America would be somewhat averted, or at least sent into a time of subsiding.
Either way, be encouraged to know that even as we fail to pursue Christ, He still pursues us. He’s doing it right now through these words. Listen to Him. Know that He loves you, and know that His love casts a huge shadow in this life, and it is one that promises safekeeping for the next (Psalm 17:8). Don’t stand outside of that shadow. I can promise you, in the sweltering heat of this mortal life, it’s much better in the shade of Christ’s love.