Adele Richards is an amateur parent of two exceedingly fabulous little girls. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away...
Some people are forever losing their keys. Their house keys and car keys mysteriously vanish at regular intervals; throwing them into a modest panic of monsoon-like proportions.
I had a friend who one morning couldn’t find his keys. This was rather a problem as his front door was locked and he couldn’t get out. With quick thinking he went out the back door. But this didn’t minimize the panic of having lost his car, office and front door keys. The house was torn apart, the car was searched down to the carburettor, but the keys had vanished.
On hearing of the drama, his mother decided to come round while he was at work and try her set of keys in his front door, thinking that one of them may fit. One fitted extremely well, though it wasn’t the right key and got wedged in the lock. Struggling to get the fraudulent key out, she haplessly managed to snap it off in the lock.
A locksmith was called out and because of the type of door, nothing could be done but to remove the entire door and install in its place a rather expensive, new one.
The friend in question, later found his keys. They were in his trouser (pants) pocket. The trousers (pants) he was wearing during the search.
An escapade worthy of Mr Bean, I’m sure you agree. But I’m rather like my friend, every day. I’m that person desperately searching for my keys, when I have them in my pocket all along.
What if the key to being a success wasn’t to be found in a career, or academic achievements, or making money or winning awards or promotion?
What if the key to feeling loved wasn’t to be found in a happy marriage, or having amazing parents, or supportive friends, or responsive children?
What if the key to a fulfilling spiritual life wasn’t to be found in amazing worship sessions, a church with a profound teaching ministry, inspiring leaders or in seeing signs, wonders and healings all around?
What if the key to your identity wasn’t to be found in your talents, or the opinion of the masses or the opinion of friends?
What if the key to feeling like you belong wasn’t to be found in the midst of a loving group of like-minded people?
How would you feel if you discovered you’d been looking for the right things in the wrong places – even though the places are good and look right. Really right?
How would you feel if you discovered you’d been trying to open the right door with the wrong key?
I think I’m finding out. And I feel a bit thick. Relieved. And excited.
I find that my natural instinct when I need something is to reach outwards. To look outwards.
When I need comfort I look to friends – or the fridge. When I need to feel worthwhile I consider some work or ministry that I’ve done lately. When I need support I run to family and friends. I long for a church where I can really feel I belong.
Here’s something I know in theory: Jesus is my source. But it’s not a theory, it’s truth and reality. A reality that I, for some bizarre reason, most often choose not to live in. I guess it’s because it’s so easy to reach out for what you can see in front of your eyes, rather than reach into the invisible realm of the Spirit.
But I’ve been frustrated enough (deliberately frustrated by Father, to get my attention? I wonder) to start to see that what I reach out to doesn’t totally satisfy my heart. Even though I have fantastic family, friends and a job I enjoy. My heart wasn’t designed to find total satisfaction in outer things.
I’m like a car that’s been designed to run on diesel and yet I keep putting petrol in the tank. My diesel is the One who supports me always; he cares, he has the energy and the patience I lack. He has a plan. He is my best friend, (bonus: he’s always here in the same country and time zone as me). He is my kindred spirit. He is my fulfilment and my purpose.
When I run around like a headless chicken trying to get my emotional tank filled by other people, events, and successes I’m acting like that unparented, unloved orphan who has to go get what she needs for herself. When actually the ultimate Father, the best friend and brother, the most nurturing spirit in existence is already here, with me, within me.
All those other things are good – marriage, kids, a career and a kicking church – there’s nothing wrong with them. But it’s a problem if they are enough for us – because they shouldn’t be enough. And there’s a problem if we know they’re not enough, but keep insisting they should be enough, because we’ll get bitter and disillusioned. The grass will always seem greener somewhere else.
I’m very slowly learning to look inside to the indwelling God who is my fuel for life. To take a moment to turn to him first when I’m tired or grumpy or even hungry. Just as often I’ll still reach for that large coffee, chocolate bar or a friend as my first response. (I don’t eat my friends).
So what about that famous, slightly tragic line from the U2 song that says; “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” How about you? Have you found what you’re looking for? Do you plan to keep looking in those same places of family, work and ministry for true satisfaction? Or are you perhaps a bit like me, and realising you’ve been looking in the wrong places?
Judging by these words from Isaiah, I think it may be a common problem:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live." (Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV)
The stuff that truly satisfies is free. And freely available. That wine of joy and milk of comfort flows freely in the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit flows in us, if only we can learn to live from the inside out. A few words from Father in the quietness of your heart will bring more comfort, relief, joy and nourishment than even a Starbucks Venti with your best friend. And a Starbucks Venti with your best friend is just about the best therapy there is in life.
What if there is only one key to life? And I have it in my pocket.