Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the human heart’s search for the perfect — the complete, the mature, the… ideal.
Light subject, eh? Well, the subject really isn’t as complicated as it seems. I promise.
You see, I believe that every human is in search of what is ideal. Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, to be wounded, to suffer personal loss. We all long internally for things to be right, and this longing leads people to search for answers to the wicked mess they see and experience around them.
- Some people turn to themselves — only they can be trusted to know right from wrong, to do what is good, or to judge other people.
- Others turn to religion in search of the ideal, to a system of rights and wrongs, a system that values goodness, or a system that judges others so that you don’t have to do it alone.
- A third group, which includes myself, turns to God in humility to acknowledge that only He has the answers to life’s brokenness, only He determines right from wrong, only He is good, and only He can rightly judge. And only in a relationship with Him, through His Son, empowered by His Spirit can I make sense of this world and hope in the coming ideal that He promises to bring about one day.
Let me bring this search for the ideal down to the even-more-practical level. Lately I’ve been really longing for things in this world to be right. Have you ever felt the same? I’m sick of the effects from sin, both on my life and on the world around me.
For example, death. I have inherited several things from my late grandparents estate that now are part of my treasure trove of belongings. But every time I look at them I cannot help but think, “This is not right.” These things don’t belong to me — they belong to them. Everything in my being desperately want to turn back the clock and take these things back to where they belong. Things don’t seem right. I long for the ideal, a time when death doesn’t take place.
Another example is the relationship between mankind and other creatures of God. I long to be able to communicate with animals, and not in the “doggie obedience training” kind of way. I have hummingbirds and small sparrows and the sort that visit me every day for food and drink. I’m so delighted to be part of God’s common grace towards these creatures but I long for a deeper relationship. I long for these beings to not be deathly afraid of me (or anyone else) but to see me as God’s representative on this earth, just like God made Adam to be in Eden. I guess that I long for the ideal of Eden.
The ancient philosopher Plato was among several of his era to conclude that mankind was in search of at least three ideals — three “transcendentals” — goodness, truth and beauty. He sometimes added “justice” to the list but since it comes under truth, it wasn’t regarded as equal to the first three things. Plato was convinced that a right, proper society was composed of these three ideals: goodness, truth and beauty. To the great thinker, anything that didn’t fall under the ideals wasn’t worth studying!
I can easily see those three ideals in Scripture, especially when the authors describe God and His character. Here is Moses quoting God, Who was describing Himself (which only He can rightly do). It comes after Moses asked to see God’s glory (beauty) and God put Moses on a rock ledge, covered his face, and passed by him.
“The Lord passed by before (Moses) and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God (goodness), slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, a forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression (truth/justice) of fathers by dealing with children and childrenʼs children, to the third and fourth generation… (Exodus 34:6-7 NET)”
As for beauty, Moses’ face shone with the radiance of the glory of God after this encounter with God’s beautiful majesty.
I also see the three ideals in the very innate longings of the human heart. In Romans 2 (esp. vv. 14-16), Paul describes how humans were created with an innate ability to discern right from wrong (“the law”) — a moral conscience that modern science still cannot explain. This internal compass judges people’s actions, Paul writes. It is this moral orientation that I believe leads people to seek the ideal in life.
For Christians, we know that one day Jesus will return to reign on the earth and set things right. Sin and death and their proponents have been judged and they will one day be sentenced and executed (1 Cor. 15). And we know that our eternal, heavenly home will be amazingly ideal, with no more death, crying, fear, brokenness, etc. (read Rev. 21:1-7 over and over and over again if you need convincing). But this side of heaven? We have hope. Hope in God’s faithful promise to destroy brokenness forever. And hope will not disappoint, though we have to live through the weight of our fallen human existence until God brings the ideal into full application.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in wanting things to be right in this world, so… what ideals are you longing for? What would you consider your biggest “make it right” ideal — that number one broken thing you want to change?
I’ll be writing a lot more on this subject, thus the “Part 1” in the title. You may just end up with a book to read when this thought-line is all over! Until then…