At 16, I presumed that a girlfriend would complete my life. I’d finally met someone charming and kind, and as soon as things were “official” (harder to inform the plebes about in the pre-Facebook era), I anticipated 70+ years of whistling under perpetually blue skies. Yet, a few weeks into the new arrangement, I discovered familiar, lurking dissatisfaction. Even surrounded by friends or reading the comics on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I still found myself waiting for “it,” only now that I had fulfilled the top wish on my list, I was unsure what “it” was.
We touched down at Boston Logan a week ago this morning and our past 7 days have been filled with similar gratification. We arrived ready to replace the things that didn’t make the move. We bought the car I’ve been dreaming of for the last couple months, complete with a realtime mpg computer to make me an obnoxious driver. To my toes’ delight, our rug-shopping hobby actually yielded a living room rug, for the first time in our marriage. On Friday we drove to New Hampshire and bought an A/C unit listed on Craigslist. With all these new (to us) toys and sunshine filtering through the leaves outside our window, I’ve been tempted to call this “perfect.” Yet, a few weeks into this new arrangement, I now know that that expectation would disappoint.
Many of us spend the preponderance of our lives either waiting for supposed paradise, just around the bend, or wishing we’d cherished the good old days.
Yesterday morning, I was struck by the opening words of Haggai:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”
Annie and I talked about this passage over our grapefruit and cereal because so much of our last week has been about checking off the things we “needed” (see: wanted) to furnish our new life. I do think we made relatively responsible decisions on a case-by-case basis, but this process endangered our souls with its materialistic siren song. Anticipating perfection puts our hearts in peril of endless discontentment, because it’s never just around the corner like our appetites and advertisements would have us believe. Furthermore, God clearly indicts the exiles for waiting to obey until circumstances improve.
After breakfast, we drove down the road to our first Massachusetts church (they’re celebrating their 300th anniversary this fall, which blew our Seattle-bred minds). Perusing the program, we were surprised to see that Pastor Kevin Baird was speaking on the same passage from Haggai that we’d discussed over breakfast. Baird enriched our understanding by turning our attention to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, where Paul tells the church, “you (plural) are God’s temple.” Considering Haggai’ and Paul’s words together, we must ask ourselves: People are saying that now’s not the time for working on the Church, but will I continue to focus on my own affairs while the household of God is incomplete and even neglected?
Are you waiting for certain aspects of your own life to fall into place before you will work on the household of God? We now understand that this goes well beyond the physical building. The Church is not what the Body of Christ should be, nor does it yet include those who it must. Baird emphasized a refrain from Haggai 1 that we should each take as a personal command: “Consider your ways.”
Will you be thankful today, despite that which you currently want and do not have?
Will you be generous today, despite the things you want for yourself?
Will you obedient today, despite all that you’ve taught your heart to wait for?
Today is always the day for obedience. Less than a month after Haggai rebuked the people, the whole community repented of their procrastination and chose to obey. In response to their faithfulness, God gives them the promise that should be our true longing and satisfaction: “I am with you.” Happy is the heart that needs nothing but the presence of the great I Am.