A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words. – Robert Frost
I’ve always thought that Frost could just as easily have been speaking of what’s behind any thoughtful hymn or song of worship. When we wrote “There is a Place,” (and many other songs and hymns) it ultimately came from all those difficult to describe moments when you feel homesick for a place you’ve never been.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV)
We’re all created with a sense of longing. We sometimes anesthetize ourselves from it with sinful pleasures and distractions or sinfully idolizing good things like work, money and family. Or we can face up to the fact that our desire will always be infinite, unquenchable by anything this world can offer, because we were made for an infinite God.
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. – St. Augustine
But ultimately this nebulous ache and sense of longing can never be the foundation of our faith but is simply, I believe, a gracious gift from God to point us to true north to the foot of the Cross.
If all we had were vague feelings we would all be lost in a sea of emotional subjectivity and private unknowable spiritual experiences. Because…
…we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV)
And with that objective Word we have a Savior who has risen from a brutal crucifixion into immortality, glory, strength and honor.
So let that vague sense of homesickness, that lump in the throat, those tears that come from nowhere point us to the Cross. Those subjective feelings have an eternal unshakeable foundation far outside of ourselves in the written Word and the Word made flesh bodily risen from the dead.
Everything in Scripture properly understood ultimately leads straight to:
…the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.(Colossians 2:2-3 ESV)
So if you’re off course, remember that the true destination is Christ, sent by Father and revealed by the Spirit. That lump in the throat is a reminder that we’re not home yet and we’re homesick for a place we’ve never been. And not just for a place we’ve never been but most of all for One we have never yet seen with our own eyes.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…(1 Peter 1:8 ESV)
So if I could re-interpret the quote that started this post as I see it…
That lump in the throat is an infinite longing placed in our hearts by an infinite God and can only be satisfied in Him.
That sense of wrong comes from living in broken and fallen world filled with pain, suffering, tears and death. It’s sensing when we look around that this is not how it was supposed to be.
That homesickness and lovesickness is our unquenchable desire to be with our Savior forever.
So as we follow Christ in this present age before his Kingdom fully comes, whether we preach every Sunday, serve in ministry of any kind, write songs and hymns, share the Gospel or simply encourage others, may God give all of us grace to find the thought and that our thoughts would find…the Word and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, for whom our hearts were made.