Nostalgia for God
August 5, 2020
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A hundred years ago, a pair of English ornithologists took some birds from their mother’s nest on the island of Skokholm off the coast of Wales. They tagged those birds and transported them to various places far from home. Then they released them to see whether those birds could find their way home.
One of those birds was flown by airplane to Venice. Despite the tremendous distance of about a thousand miles and despite the fact that this species of bird was not native to the region around Venice, the bird found its way back home by a path it had never flown—in just over 341 hours! That experiment was repeated with even greater distances. Two birds were transported by train in a closed box to London, then flown by airplane to Boston. Only one of the two birds survived that trip. The lone survivor, bird No. AX6587, flew all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and found its way back to its mother’s nest in twelve days and twelve hours!
Pretty impressive, right? Even ornithologists are amazed by this inbuilt capacity called the homing instinct. It’s the inherent ability within certain animals to find their way home across great distances despite unfamiliar terrain.
There is a similar instinct hardwired into the human soul—the longing to be blessed by God. Why? It’s our earliest memory! In the words of Saint Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal called it the God shaped hole. Pope Francis called it “nostalgia for God.”
We cannot reach the full measure of our potential or find the full measure of meaning in life without God. Why? That’s whose image we bear. That’s whose nest we come from. That’s who blessed us in the beginning.
Remember the prodigal son? I think it was nostalgia for God, a holy homesickness, that jogged his memory and turned his heart toward home. The prodigal who had disowned his father now sought his blessing. And so do we. If this book helps you find your way back to God, it has served its purpose. May you find faith with your fingerprint on it.
The prodigal was so far from home, but not so far that God’s grace could not lead him home. And when it did, he found his father watching and waiting for his return. You will too! The father ran to his son, with his arms wide open. Then he threw a party, more than a three-minute party! He celebrated his son, and God will do the same for you. His ancient instinct has not changed. There is nothing God wants to do more than to give you His full blessing.
God wants to bless you beyond your ability to ask or imagine. There, I said it again. But by now you know the secret to the double blessing: you get it by giving it.
Count your blessings.
Flip your blessings.
Repeat as often as possible!
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.