“From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.…” (Paul before the Areopagus, Acts 17:26)
Chesterton once observed that religion was a love affair rather than a theory and this set me to musing on all that has recently taken place in this month of May. From the pandemic and its fall out to the current rioting in the streets of our country and all the political arguing. May is poetically described as a beautiful month full of bright spring sunshine and gorgeous colorful flowers. But the reality where I live in the woods is a dirty opposite: May is usually full of muddy rains and the DNA like strands of seeds and fallen blossoms from the tall tulip poplar trees litter the deck and ground in a mess that you can never fully clean up. It must be endured every day of the month knowing the character of the forest will return in June. Having a love affair with religion is like enjoying the woods with its mysterious and beautiful forest but enduring the reality of this messy month each year. Its part of living out one’s faith and learning what to be content with, what to fight and where and when to do both by showing the many faceted character of love throughout. There’s no theory about it. Love is just hard work.
So as I continued to muse in this mess of woods and life and faith, quarantined and unable to leave my home, that the irony struck me: that a lot of our current problems, with culture clash and pandemic, stem from travel – excessive, mostly serving beast-like money-making interests, often trivial, and the recent political forms of travel behind human movement. But what are we seeking? The answer is proverbially “a better life.” But most never are satisfied with this “better life”. Both Lewis and Chesterton, each, have written about what is behind that ironic dissatisfaction.
So it behooves all of us to ask: is it right that we have been spending so much of our time seeking with so much travel to foreign and not so foreign parts? All this rush and push and dislocation of others to do so? If God placed us where we were at the time of our birth, as the scripture in Acts tells us, then let us notice *who*, not *what* he wanted us to seek. The travel was to Him. It was to Him and not perpetually and restlessly to other lands. Maybe Dorothy was right: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” And Chesterton would seem to agree:
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Riddle of the Ivy’, Tremendous Trifles (1909)
If we are to “set foot on one’s country as a foreign land” as Chesterton says, then Tolkien suggests to us why: to be “…uprooting the evil in the fields that we know…”. This comes from a conversation in The Return of the King, where Gandalf says something to his listeners: the lords of the allies gathered at the gates of Minas Tirith, Aragorn, Imrahil of Dol Amroth, Éomer and Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond…
“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
― Gandalf, The Last Debate, The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
If we are to be where we can seek God best and do his will in our own lives showing love for the others that need our witness and our “fight for what is good in this world” then its time we go back to living simply and look to the fields that we know.