Don’t Scratch That Itch

Restlessness is a lot like a vague itch. It hides under your clothes. And sometimes it feels like no matter how much you try to scratch it through your sweater it’s hiding right under the surface of your skin. Itches are rarely seen and most of the time they’re pretty benign. But sometimes you take off your coat and realize you’ve been nursing a pressure sore that is slowly eating you away.

I listened to Tim Keller’s sermon on Hebrews 4 last week and realized that restlessness is seen in the boredom of being alone and the inescapable cycles of busyness we live in. We like to deal with our restless itch by scratching it with our activities and rituals and relationships, as though being busier would make that itch go away rather than eventually break out of the skin and bleed out our soul.

Some people have a megaphone conscience and acutely feel the restlessness it generates. Others more self assured, pour themselves into their accomplishments, unable to stop, not so much ignoring the restlessness but being unaware of what truly drives them. They can only sense a vague unease and the inability to be alone by themselves. No wonder laying down to sleep can be a terror for so many. Restlessness can have many masks and who knows where else she lurks? Underlying all of that is a relational problem of your self’s inability to relate its self to its self.

I wish I was like a child again! When we were children we would fear the boogeyman at night but as adults we dread ourselves. While half of me is faced with my shortcomings the other looks up into the blinding radiance of God’s being. The infinite gap between God and myself, is like a beautiful woman that terrifies and makes you conscious of your own deficits. As Keller preached on Hebrews 4, I was reminded that we’re always trying to cover that up by our own priestly sacrifices to get rid of that unclean restlessness.

Like every human, I long to be okay. But what do you do when the measuring stick is an infinite being and the chase is endless? What sacrifice is ever enough? Sometimes I think maybe if I just knew a little bit more anatomy I would be a better physiotherapist. Or if I just could make some money I would be a more loving husband. And so on until what I’m really hoping for is to be a better person. With each sacrifice, I secretly hope it’s the final one.

A popular saying is that ‘there is no rest for the weary’. Restlessness doesn’t go away no matter how much we sacrifice ourselves to appease our conscience because they’re never good enough. We often think that rest comes at the completion of our work the way God rested on the 7th day of creation from his. But true eternal rest is a gift of God. What blew my mind as I listened to Keller’s sermon was that entering God’s rest meant putting down every pretense in our life, to recognize our shame and nakedness before his piercing Word and to come weary to Jesus who would take our burdens. I only wish that entering that resting was as easy as I heard it preached. I guess that’s why it’s a gift. It’s something to ask for not earn.

Curiosity Is Not Cereal

What does the worker gain from his struggles? I have seen the task that God has given people to keep them occupied. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end. Eccl. 3.9-11

Do you remember what it was like to watch an ant crawl through the cracks and crevices of your school grounds? Or to peer through the gap between the seat and the seatbelt buckle to see what mysteries lay hidden underneath the car? Did you ever wonder why parrots talked and other birds cawed? Do you remember…the last time you looked up the night sky?

For those of you who’ve reached the elusive status of ‘grown up’ you may remember the world back then was an interesting place. Somewhere and somehow the same spark behind every question ‘why?’ was extinguished in you, leaving only dull eyes beholding a gray world. You’ve seen it all before. As the great philosopher Peter Griffin said, ‘silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.’ I used to love eating Trix cereal. It had every color of the rainbow and was sold by a rabbit. Of course I had to eat it. But once I found that it was just sugar and coloring it gradually lost its sheen. Now I’ve replaced it with granola and oats. I’ve gone from eating the rainbow to eating like a horse; much better. But I had to outgrow Trix cereal if I didn’t want diabetes.

But it seems absurd to me that our curiosity often takes the same path. Have our lives become completely boring? No wonder we can’t seem to stop trying to avoid it ourselves. Few last more than a few minutes face to face with themselves. It’s probably why smart phones sell faster than hot cakes. One tap can transport you into an LED world filled with news and videos of whats not happening to you. Another glittering world seems to lie at your fingertips and the more you stay in it, the darker the adult world seems when you return back from your trip to the digital ether. Rather than grow with us, it is as though someone had taken our curiosity out the backdoor and put a bullet in his head. He had caused enough trouble as it was and for Mr. Certainty’s sake, his services were no longer required.

I’ve often wondered what role curiosity plays in our lives. Do we reach a stage where we can stop and stay where we are? It doesn’t seem humanly possible. Imagine working in an office where your role was to sharpen pencils. You sharpen a pencil one at a time until thousands are completed. But every morning the pencils return blunt. The same cycle repeats until you are old and gray and ready to go home. Insanity would not be far off. Yet a cat seems to have no problem with the same life, day in and day out. My cat wakes, eats, sleeps, plays and sleeps. She does this from dawn to dusk, Monday to Sunday. All the while her body ages and her whiskers grow longer. We seem to be the only particular beings who need to pursue something endlessly. The athlete who wins a championship is no longer a success the moment he gets it because in doing so he’s no longer winning it.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

I don’t think we’re drawn to an achievement but rather the pursuit of infinite goodness, truth and beauty. In each of us a void exists that seeks to rise above where we are now to grasp where we could be. The world shows us that finite beings don’t strive for infinite things. Animals don’t know that one day they will die. They don’t care about living on or being remembered. Yet every desire that I’ve ever had correlated to an object I could find in it. My hunger shows me that I need food. My thirst reminds that I need water. My loneliness draws me to find a friend. And so I must also conclude that my insatiable curiosity leads me to a world beyond this unbearable lightness of being. So our curiosity draws us from where we are to where we could be but it is a pity that it too often dies a lonely death.

Because you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee. Augustine, Confessions