There was a time when we were barely able to see over the dashboard. A time when we agonized and ached from the boredom and all that youthful restlessness contained within the sealed off confines of the family car.
Are we there yet? we moaned.
These days as a father of two wild boys I’m the target of that sorrow-filled question. Twice a year we pack up our little Honda sedan and set off on the thousand mile trek along I-70 between Denver and grandma and grandpa’s house in Indiana. And before we reach the state line of Kansas it begins.
Are we there yet? How much further?
Maybe listening to those repeated childish inquiries becomes so insanely annoying due to the reality that I’m still asking God and myself the same questions.
In my work - Am I there yet?
In my marriage - Am I there yet?
In my finances - Am I there yet?
In my faith - Am I there yet?
And where exactly is this terribly elusive destination called there?
Isn’t this aching for there-ness wrapped up into a very ordinary piece of humanity called desire?
Desires are good, right?
The religious word for desire is often translated as covet. Covet is a less attractive word because we’re accustomed to hearing it in the context of the 10 Commandments “don’t covet your neighbors house or spouse, etc.”
Actually, coveting (in and of itself) is good.
We covet a certain freedom – the space to return to our true self. Underneath the annoying are we there yets lies the beautiful desire for spaciousness and for intimacy. All holy desires.
But how quickly all the restless energy of this desiring becomes misplaced. We fall prey to the seduction of the American dream with its endless false promises, attractive advertisements, and edited Instagrams which incite our anxious comparisons and exhausting competitions.
All this rampant desiring to be over there rather than attentive to the right now eventually grinds us down. Confused by the complexity of there-ness and here-ness we grow increasingly disillusioned to the point where the following tragedies unconsciously unfold...
- First, we give up on our desiring. It all feels so pointless after awhile. Since we’re not going to get where we imagined to be there, then why keep on desiring?
- Second, in our disillusionment and determination to give up desiring we convince our needy inner child that we have somehow arrived in that magical land of there. There’s no use in changing or evolving our imaginary expectations into anything different if we have finally landed upon that far shore. Well tell ourselves this must be it and by it I mean there, right?
This common trajectory of our lives leads me to a couple common and crucial flaws within our conditioned spiritual paradigms. I've come to see that much of christianity needs a drastic do-over when it comes to these deeply imbedded aspects of our thinking.
We've been victimized by clock-time.
Clock-time is all we've ever known of our world. We've been hardwired to measure everything in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. We're blind to this obsession.
It's almost impossible to be fully present when we're shackled by the constraints of clock-time. That's why any notion of eternity becomes so mind-blowing to the point where we mostly let it go in one ear and out the other.
God-time, the eternal present, is always inviting us to transform our desire for there-ness into loving, curious and active here-ness. The timeless embrace of God is always right here/right now in the naked vulnerability of the present moment. Instead of clinging to how short and limited our time is we are invited to respond with all of our hearts, soul, and mind to God's eternal love and become radical partners in the divine communion.
We mistake both God and ourselves as nouns.
We've operated and analyzed both ourselves and God as if we're dead frogs to be biologically dissected, examined, and identified. This is what most seminaries refer to as "Systematic Theology" and so many are beginning to see just how contradictory those two terms really are. What if, instead we see ourselves and God through the same dynamic lenses that the Hubble telescope is capturing our universe - one that is found constantly changing and expanding before our very eyes?
This dynamic version of God is what was offered to Moses in Exodus chapter 3 when God self-describes as Ahayah Asher Ahayah translated into English as, "I will be what I will be," which was one of God's biblical declarations of verb-ness. In that burning bush encounter, Moses experienced what it was like to dwell outside of the confines of clock-time within the transcendent energy of divine union.
Both God and humanity are by nature and design verbs. What difference does it make?
Gary is one of my homeless friends who holds creative cardboard signs on street corners to make a few bucks. One time his sign read, "I'm here because I'm not all there."
Isn't Gary's sign a good basic definition of prayer?
Our mind keeps pulling us away from the present moment - always obsessed with what's over there, but prayer says I'm going to practice attentive presence right here and now precisely because I'm not all there.
Even in my smart acknowledgments of eternal time and the verb-ness of God and humanity I still carry and cry out so many 'Are we there yet's?'
And this brings me back to the reality of desire... We are all energized, unfinished agents of desire.
And the reality of desire leads me back to the practice of prayer. And maybe prayer is nothing more than becoming a child in God's car (probably a Buick or Oldsmobile) where we ask, Are we there yet? Delighted in our desires God smiles back in the rearview mirror and says, "Son, you're already there so let's enjoy one another right here."
"It becomes so clear to me as I grow older that people who change, and keep changing, are the only people who grow up." ~ Richard Rohr