“Are we there?”
Are we nearly there yet?
Many journeys this holiday season have been peppered not with the classic, “are we nearly there yet?” but with my 4 year olds favourite, “Are we there?” As we hurtle at speed down the road I like to reply, “Yep, here we are. Everybody out!”
In that moment in the seventh minute of a seven hour car journey I’m faced with a choice. I can– like many parents – either dread the next four hundred and thirteen minutes longing to be at our final destination or I can cherish the multiple toilet stops, myriad packets of sweets, innumerable Jacobs cream cracker crumbs scattered throughout the car, dispersion of fruit and banana skins I will later find, countless rounds of iSpy, who am I? and our family favourite ‘ketchup car’ (rules below*).
Do we cherish the journey or long only for the destination?
Do we wish this life away and long only for the new heaven and new earth? Or conversely do we think only of this life and the race marked out before us without ever glimpsing the prize?
Hebrews 12:1-3 calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus and to run with perseverance not growing weary or losing heart. The word perseverance (hypomonē) can be translated as patience, endurance, steadfastness and constancy. Admittedly none of these sound like much fun but they do sound good for me. And there does seem to be a balance – the need to run the race and to know to where we are running.
The classic Christian phrase “in the world but not of it” carries the sentiment that we should get out of here as quickly, unscathed, unaffected and as well as we can. It feels like the ‘in the world’ is a melancholy realisation requiring a feat of endurance to make it through, and then one glorious day to leave. In John 17:14-19 we see the opposite. Jesus says that the starting point is ‘we are not of this world’. The truth of being set apart, belonging to a different kingdom is not the ultimate goal, it is the believing disciples now reality.
So what does Jesus make of the ‘in the world’ bit? He calls us to get in to it. He sends us and commissions us to live here and now. He’s not praying, “oh no, Father they’re all in the world, how do we get them out!” We are not called to wait until he orchestrates a rescue plan. We’re not called to bury our talents and keep safe. We’re called to transform, to make disciples, to heal, to set free, to love God and everyone. We’re called to pray and bring the reality of our final destination into the world’s present experience.
So this is an unusual race; a weird kind of journey. One in which we run with our eyes fixed on the prize not just so we know what we’ll get and where we’re headed if we win but so we know the resource, reality and relationship available to us and others now.
In Revelation 21 God speaks of himself as ‘Alpha and Omega’. God here identifies himself as both the source and the climax of life. He is the giver of journey, the resource and companion for the journey and the celebrated destination. The encouragement to the 7 churches of Revelation, and to us, is that all life comes from him and all life finds both current and ultimate fulfilment in him.
So in the remaining 34,690,324 minutes of my journey (I’m planning on living to just over 100) my daily question will be, “Daddy, are we there?”
And I’ll expect him to reply, “kind of – live as if you are!”
*Rules for ketchup car = Every time you see a red car everyone shouts very loudly “ketchup car”. This swiftly extends to include anything red “ketchup lorry”, “ketchup garage door”. Basically shouting at anything that is red!