The City Around the Heart

I had lately struggled to understand why we came to Kentucky. With a baby on the way and a never-ending stream of bills, I’m going to have to take a full-time job. That’s not so bad, but it makes me question why we moved.

After all, in Lansing I had a much more lucrative job, we were surrounded by family and friends, and I was a deacon at a church that I loved. I could easily have driven down to Plymouth to attend Michigan Theological Seminary a couple times a week and followed the exact same pattern that we will have to do now here in Kentucky, except with far fewer money problems!

Of course, the whole problem with this mental construction is that were things reversed, I can almost guarantee I’d be looking at SBTS with envy and Michigan with disdain. The core problem is my own heart’s discontent. I want so badly to be doing something that feels significant that I am (a) not good at appreciating God’s acts of preparation in my life for later things and (b) not able to see the significance of what we are doing here and now.

This was brought into sharp relief for me when I read this poem by C.P. Cavafy.

The City

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.

How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
There’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
You’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

In other words, as I constantly need to be reminded, contentment is something found within our own hearts, when we rightly place our faith in God to lead and guide.

I’m so thankful for the way these simple reminders, which I need so often, can be found anywhere and everywhere here at seminary, like lights on a Christmas tree. When they come, I am startled and a bit frustrated by my own repeated forgetfulness. But then I remember that life is beautiful, and that God is faithful, and turn once more to the task of honoring the Giver of gifts.


amanda said...

That is very insightful. Personally, I expect to move out of state to find a job. For one, I want to be independant and on my own. Also, I thought that my likelyhood of finding a job in Michigan would be impossible with a depressing economy. So I set my sights on places I have never even seen before. It is scary.. for me.
The odd thing that happened to me is my coordinator wants me to apply for job in Michigan right in Lansing. There job that she seems to think is perfect fit for me and by looks of it is. I am of course going to apply. However, apart of me does not want to be stuck in a college town or in Michigan.
There many factors for staying and leaving.

I am attempting to seek God for my future.
Being content is so important thanks for the reminder.

amanda said...

I want to visit you and Samantha sometime soon.

Anonymous said...


What you say is very true. I'm glad that you are looking for contentment in the right source.

And Cavafy is always wonderful. Whenever I wonder when (and if, and to what, and in case I take too long to whom) I will go back to Colombia, I like to think that "Ithaka" suits me well, even if I'm no Odysseus:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that one on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon - you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfumes of every kind -
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean

Anonymous said...

Anonymus meaning Luis...

Jamie Butts said...

I want so badly to be doing something that feels significant that I am (a) not good at appreciating God’s acts of preparation in my life for later things and (b) not able to see the significance of what we are doing here and now.

Ben, the above was a great quote. I think it helps me in the "working while waiting for motherhood season" (Lord willing)
I appreciate the words, brother.