“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Acts 17:26
The long-held, oft-rekindled day dream was assassinated suddenly and viciously, sniper-style. One simple half-verse from Acts 17:26 did the deed. This portion of a verse that was mentioned in a Sunday sermon, in passing nonetheless, exposed the daydream, and then dispatched it.
Let’s rewind a few decades to set the context. All boys want to be heroes, often in some other era or locale. I was no exception. Eventually, all boys become men — at least in the chronological sense. So, even into my forties a smidgen of this type of daydreaming had remained. The idea of living in and thriving through yonder times of greater simplicity and civility were enticing, yet unreal.
At times, the Bible had curbed this occasional daydreaming. But the lack of a specific verse, or at least the impact of one, had made it possible to return to my intermittent daydreaming of things being different: a different time, different place, different role in life, etc. As best that I can tell, these occasional spells of a discontented mind and spirit are a universal symptom of a fully-baked-in sinful nature. It runs in my family; it runs in yours too.
This went on for years, waxing and waning parallel to my wanting and whining. Then, for no reason — at least not one of mine! — this auxiliary verse in a sermon blind-sided me. As I began to read and re-read the verse, the pastor’s voice garbled, and then faded as the spiritual spotlight narrowed onto the verse. Then, the hands of honest examination and conviction had my long term malady firmly in grasp, and asphyxiated within seconds.
Note the phrase in Acts 17:26, “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” Dang. This spoke with clarity and precision. No nuance or clemency present there.
The truth here is clear. God has designed each life for a place in time, and for time in a place. His purpose is for me to be here, now. And in the now, I am to be here. The dream of living in a time (more simple) or place (more natural and less civilized), or both, can be a camouflaged shirking of my current Kingdom purpose and responsibility. The real danger for us — not just a road sign warning — is that in longing for a different station in life we will focus on “what if” instead of “what is.” “If” versus “is” can be a distracting duel at best, paralyzing at worst.
After struggling against this spiritual current in Acts 17:26 for a minute or so, I gave up, repented, and the merciful floatation device of grace was cast my way. I took on a lot of water in that short struggle. The water-logging was good for me, and still is.
Do not suppose that I am suggesting that imagination — or fanciful thinking — is wrong, or sinful. Or, that daydreaming is sinful. Joy and imagination are important to my life, and should be so long as they do not scale the fences of Scripture and scurry into momentary longing for something other than God’s design.
As I thought on these things that afternoon, another verse came to mind: “Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you…” 1 Thessalonians 4:11.
Well, that does it. A solid one-two gut punch from Acts 17 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians add some specificity to those in Acts 17:26. We are to aspire to lead a quiet/simple life (wait, that fits with my daydreams), mind our own business/affairs (that destroys the daydreams), and work with our own hands where we are (that buries the daydreams and firmly packs down the soil). Thanks, Paul, apostle of truth and terseness; you are correct, again.
The next time that my boy-headed thoughts trot off into another era to pretend to be bigger, better, or more with less, I will remember that I was divinely inserted into this time and place for the King. He has decided for me about this place in time, and time in this place.