In his book City of God, Augustine of Hippo wrote, “The heavenly city, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses peace by faith; and by this faith it lives.”
I loved these words because they reminded me that as followers of Jesus, this earth is not our real home. Rather, we are on a constant journey as resident aliens. As Paul says in Philippians 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. So we navigate the tension of living in the "now and the not yet. Between coaching and consulting and writing and teaching I get to talk to believers from many different church traditions, with an occasional seeker along the way, and I am encouraged at the many "pilgrims" I meet as I do this. Together, in our own ways, both small and sometimes large, we are helping to build the heavenly city that Augustine talks about. I delight in being part of something so much bigger than my small little corner of the world.
Last week I picked up a book that I am taking very slowly, just reading a tiny bit each day, titled The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. I am fascinating by the spiritual disciplines of the early church, and each quote in this book packs a punch. This one from two days ago is still with me:
Poemen said, "To be on guard, to meditate within, to judge with discernment: these are the three works of the soul."
Poemen was apparently a humble leader of a group of monastic hermits in the 5th century in Egypt, who guided his community in hard work, prayer and study. I liked this simple sentence because it called me to not lose sight of my real job as I work on these various projects and responsibilities: my highest calling, for eternity, is to know and love Jesus Christ. So I am to guard against temptations and distractions, to meditate and stand still enough to hear Him, and to be wise in my decisions, thoughts and words.
None of this easy to do, but it is always worthwhile. Augustine again taught me on this last night as I read this before I went to sleep:
Augustine of Hippo said, “Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence. Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument. Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps we will then come to understand it.”
I am so grateful for all of these opportunities. They are creative and challenging, and I am especially thankful for the gainful employment in such a bad economy! But ultimately, they will amount to nothing if I do not put first things first, and fix my heart on the Lord. If I do this, he persistently polishes the rough edges of my stony heart and makes something beautiful. Amazing.