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Moments In Time -The Two Impulses

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Recently, one of our granddaughters, Abbigail, celebrated her tenth birthday. Of course, given the current lock down restrictions, Jenny and I couldn’t visit her, however, we did have a lovely ZOOM meeting with Abbi and the family. One of her requests was that we all sing “Happy Birthday” to her, which we did with a degree of success despite the time delays inherent with ZOOM. It was fun and Abbi loved it.

The other birthday wish Abbi expressed was to camp out over night with the whole family in the back yard. Abbi saw this as a real adventure where she would be going well beyond her comfort zone and living on the “wild side.”

The night of the big camp out was probably one of the windiest nights for the year and poor little Abbigail hardly slept a wink as she listened to the tent flapping and shaking madly. To her credit she endured the trial, however I understand she was very keen to return to the safety and familiarity of home as soon as it became light.

When I spoke to her a few days later Abbi’s account of the adventure was very animated with much emphasis on the fear and excitement she felt during the stormy night and the utter relief and joy of returning home.

Mark Buchanan in his book “Unseen Things” writes;

“All of us are born with two impulses. These jostle each other from womb to grave. They make us constantly restless, anxious, weary, cranky. The first impulse is to go beyond… to fling out wide to the horizons, to seek novelty, to hunger for new beginnings. This impulse often atrophies into escapism. The second impulse is to go home. It is to recapture some unspoiled origins, some unchanging sameness. We cherish the familiar, we seek safety, domesticity, serenity- to find again what we have lost. This impulse often calcifies into nostalgia.”

The tension between these two seemingly opposing impulses can often leave us feeling a sense of unease and being out of place… and I would suggest that is exactly what is meant to happen.

Emerson is reported to write that;

“When God wants to carry a point with his children, he plants his argument into the instincts”

What is the point that God is trying to convey to us through these “opposing instincts?”

I would suggest it is that we have all been created with this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar, which can never be fully satisfied on this planet since it is not our final home. We have been created for eternity and this tension we experience between these two impulses is meant to cause us to shift our gaze heavenward.

Or as Solomon wrote…

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work that God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11. (Berean Study Bible)

Heaven is the one place where both impulses- to go beyond, to go home- are perfectly joined and totally satisfied. Where we are constantly discovering, and everything is fresh and new, but at the same time where we are fully at home, and everything is as it ought to be and in place.

What will that be like? We can only guess, but as Paul writes…

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

Nor the heart of man conceived,

What God has perceived for those who love him.”

I Corinthians 2:9 (RSV)

This week can I encourage us all to let our gaze and thoughts drift heavenward a little more, for as Mark Buchanan points out…

“Heavenly-mindedness is sanity. It is the best regime for keeping our hearts whole, our minds clear. It allows us to enjoy earth’s pleasures without debauchery. It allows us to endure life’s difficulties without despair. It allows us to see things from the widest possible perspective and in the truest possible proportions.”

(Unseen Things. Mark Buchanan)



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