For one reason or another, and actually for a good number of reasons I carry the sense of having not arrived. While I admit to thinking primarily of the personal end of things, I also want to think beyond that to the world around me and the world at large.
I am reminded of John Bunyan’s, The Pilgrim’s Progress. In that story Christian is on a journey from the world that is going to perish, actually starting from “the City of Destruction,” with a huge burden on his back he loses at the foot of the cross. He is on what turns out to be a long and treacherous, as well as interesting journey to the Celestial City, heaven. It is a wonderful allegory, steeped in the prevailing theology of its times. And still worth a careful read. It remains, and I think always will remain a deserving classic. (An updated version, I would recommend.)
While I can concur with much of the theology in The Pilgrim’s Progress, I see the Christian life in a bit different way. Yes, with some serious overlap, but different, just the same. I would agree with N. T. Wright that the kingdom of God come in Jesus is not about escaping earth to go to heaven, but bringing heaven down to earth. It is the life of new creation, even in the old, here and now. And of “putting the world to rights,” as our British friend says it, “the righteousness of God” in Jesus for the salvation of the world with justice and into shalom, in which peace means much more than the absence of conflict.
There is a sense in which we live with the need of closure in different areas of this life. Both on a personal level, and at least with reference to our own relationship to our world and the world at large. Some of my need is in regard to things I would like to make right if possible and if wise, even though I know that it is only God who can really do that. And yet God uses us to get some, perhaps even much of what is accomplished of that in this life. One thing we can always do is pray. And seek good counsel from wise and trusted friends.
I don’t entirely understand my strong sense in this life of having not arrived. It hits me on a number of fronts. Yes, I still sin, and can have a propensity to sin. As well as to hunger and thirst for righteousness. And to see progress in my life, so that some old sins seem dead, or at least dormant. Of course anyone who thinks they stand must beware lest they fall. One of my main desires on a personal level is to better rest in the salvation in Jesus. And to better live out of that. So that I don’t live with the sense of guilt and condemnation, sometimes deserved but oftentimes not of the convicting work of the Spirit. More along the lines of self-imposed guilt along with the sense of not measuring up in the eyes of others in some ways helped along by the enemy, the devil.
Some of the sense of having not arrived may be broadly correlated to the Apostle Paul’s experience of carrying a thorn in his flesh, even a messenger of Satan, which tormented him. And kept him humble, even helping him into a closer relationship with Christ as well as a knowing of his power that Paul would not have known otherwise. One can be tempted to despair in that, but instead we’re to press on, hopefully finding our way through the sense of darkness and emptiness into the light, even the full light of day.
And I have a sense of longing, yes thirsting for justice for the world. Something God’s kingdom come in Jesus brings. For a new order, for getting rid of the disorder and chaos which too regularly brings havoc on earth. Yes, we long for a better day not just for ourselves, but for each other, and not just for each other, but for the entire world. That is in significant part what the Lord’s/Our Father prayer is about, it’s aim.
Probably much of my sense of having not arrived is good and appropriate. And surely there’s some of it which needs to fall by the wayside. Life in a sense is indeed a journey. Into the good will of God made known in Jesus. Lived out in our own lives within community in Jesus and for the world. As we continue to look to Jesus, and seek by the Spirit and the word, to follow in his steps to the end. And find complete closure for ourselves and for the world, in him.