Archive for August, 2009


Seek or be sought? How do we find what we’re looking for?

August 11, 2009


I don’t usually publish another persons blog post in its entirety, but this one is to important to trust that you will click on a link to read it. Read this, it is dead on!


Every day, millions of us use search engines to find what we’re looking for on the Internet. We try Google, or Yahoo, or other sites until we find what we need.

If a search engine repeatedly yields unsatisfactory results, we try different key words or use a different search engine entirely. Search-engine companies are continuously introducing ways to generate more and better results. Motivated seekers are not satisfied with seeking and not finding.

It’s not unlike America’s spiritual journey. National surveys repeatedly identify a large portion of Americans who describe themselves as spiritual seekers. In the decade I’ve been watching this phenomenon, the percentage has stayed firmly in the 82-percent range.

Which leads to an obvious question. If everybody is searching, how come nobody is finding? Why would a culture accustomed to successful searches be satisfied with always turning up empty?

One possibility is that they are not really searching. Today, being a seeker is almost more acceptable than being a finder. If you’ve found something you believe in, you are perceived as close-minded or narrow, even bigoted. This is particularly true if you share what you’ve found with others. “How dare you push your views on me?” says the earnest seeker of truth.

Another possibility is that the truth being sought is an eternally expansive reality; once you think you understand it, it reveals another complex layering. This is what St. Augustine had in mind when he said something to the effect of, “If you think you understand God, what you are understanding is not God!”

U2’s memorable lyrics in “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” are in the same vein. Both Bono and The Edge have, in fact, called it a gospel song, but it also reflects a deep unfulfilled yearning: “I believe in the Kingdom Come, you broke the bonds, you loosed the chains, you carried the cross and my shame. You know I believe it, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Some people find this song blasphemous because they think Bono finds Jesus’ Gospel insufficient or unsatisfactory. But others find it a refreshingly honest exploration of the now and future fulfillment of the good news of Jesus. Hints of the kingdom begin now but await fulfillment in the future.

There is another explanation for self-identified seekers not finding. What if they have discovered the truth and found it too demanding? In his “Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed that many people want to “come and dine” with Jesus, but are unwilling to “come and die” with Jesus. He believed you couldn’t have one without the other.

C.S. Lewis, who was once an unbeliever, caught this drift when he mocked the very notion of an unbeliever seeking God. “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about `man’s search for God.’ To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat!” Since finding God inevitably means a reordering of one’s life and priorities, why voluntarily enter into a relationship that will overwhelm and consume you?

Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel raised yet another provocative possibility when he asserted that it is actually God who’s in search of humans, and not generally the other way around. That was certainly the case in the archetypal story of Adam and Eve. They ate the forbidden fruit, covered their nakedness in shame and hid in the bushes. It was God who reopened dialogue, seeking them out and asking, “Where are you?”

Though it may flatter us to think of ourselves as noble seekers of God, the ancient biblical stories clearly name humans as the fleers and God as the seeker. Noah. Jonah. Paul. “Ask and it will be given to you,”

Jesus said. “Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Isn’t it just like us to make ourselves the hero of a story in which we are actually the obstinate rebels? No wonder why the number of seekers has held steady. If we got out of the way, we might actually find what we’re looking for.

Dick Staub is the author of “The Culturally Savvy Christian” and the host of The Kindlings Muse ( His blog can be read at