Are we there yet? Sojourners and Shalom

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

How do you find music you like? Here’s one way it happens for me…

I purchased a compilation CD recently because I’d heard one song on it, on the radio, that I wanted to savor, and because the proceeds from the CD go to preserving the forests of our beautiful Cascade mountains. Neither reason would have been good enough alone, but together, I caved and bought the CD.

Though I bought it because of this, I loved both the lyrics and music of Ingrid Michaeleson in this song, so I visited her web site, and bought more of her music. Three nights ago, alone, I sat and listened, over and over again, to her offering titled, “Are we there yet?” I thought of those I know facing cancer, infidelity, foreclosure, aloneness, and so much more. Ingrid takes the trite little things we’ve said all our lives, like “Home is where the heart is” and “Every cloud has a silver lining” and turns them on their head to reveal the reality of our incompleteness. I listened to it eight times in a row, sitting in candlelight as the rain fell, and pondered the tension in which all of us must leave, between the shalom (peace and wholeness) of God, and the reality that we’re sojourners.

Are we there yet? Nope….not even close. Hebrews 11 tells us that nobody’s ever there, not in this life, not even among people of faith. There’s always, it seems, an ache. Even, as I’ve written elsewhere, in our moments that come closest to perfection, there’s an awareness of how fleeting they are. The perfect powder melts. The perfect moment of intimacy fades.  Stuff happens.  “Are we there yet?”… I don’t think so.

And yet, it’s also true that somehow, mysteriously, in the midst of our not yet being there, a peace is available to us that is beyond our capacity to grasp. This peace, in its fullest expression, has its roots in God’s notion of “shalom” which encompasses the deep satisfaction that comes from everything being just right. And there’s a sense in which this shalom is available to us right now, not in full measure surely, but available nonetheless.

I believe that it’s available because, in Christ, we’re granted to possibility of looking at the world through different eyes, childlike, wide-eyed with wonder over the simplest things, be they the remarkable shades of green that come after the rain, or the subtle tastes of a good red wine. A friend who is battling cancer has this sense of ‘sojourner’ right now as she does battle with the disease in her body, AND at the same time, she experiences profound peace and joy because her daughter in law is carrying her first grand daughter. There it is: sojourner and shalom.

Unless we have the eyes of Christ, the sojourner piece will devastate us and we’ll become, frankly, dark people who either numb ourselves through addictive escapes, or pour our own darkness into the world, or both.

Thanks Ingrid, for a song that captures the reality of our sojourning so powerfully. And thanks be to God that in the reality of our brokenness, shalom awaits.

6 thoughts on “Are we there yet? Sojourners and Shalom

  1. I listen to, a self-described eclectic radio station run by a retired radio DJ and his wife out of their house in Paradise, CA. It’s introduced me to a lot of music from genres/eras I would have otherwise avoided by default.

    Probably the biggest artists I’ve been happily introduced to are Imogen Heap, Porcupine Tree, and Muse.

  2. Is it possible that this idea of the sojourn is simply an aspect of Shalom which we cannot understand? That the wholeness of Shalom speaks of a place and a state of being which is beyond our ability to comprehend, a place and being which is God? These two aspects, however distinct in our experience of them, may actually point to the same absolute reality wherein we are restored to a rightness and fullness of being (Shalom), and that reality is the rightness and fullness of God which remains ever beyond our ability to grasp and lies eminently within our ability to experience (Shalom). You are right to speak of the journey as an experience of Shalom wholeness which draws us ever onward and ever closer to the Eternal, but I wonder if our perception of the journey is simply our inability to perceive Shalom wholeness objectively.

  3. richard, this post makes me think of both annie dillard and her desire to live fully in the present, and karen blixen (i.e. isak dinesen of “out of africa” fame) for her sensitivity to being a sojourner…i’ll leave you with a quote from ms. blixen:
    For God does not create a longing or a hope without having a fulfilling reality ready for them. But our longing is our pledge, and blessed are the homesick, for they shall come home.
    — Karen Blixen

  4. mmmmm….one of my best friends took me to see ingrid monday night when she was here in seattle. i only started listening to her music 2 weeks ago but her lyrics are captivating! i love the song that you mentioned in your post – thanks for sharing your thoughts…. especially about how we have the ability to look at the world through different eyes. blessings!

  5. I love Ingrid, but I’d never heard this song. It’s wonderful. Reminds me of a line from “Two” by Ryan Adams: ‘I’m fractured from the fall and I want to go home.’

    God’s creation can’t help but tell the Story.

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