The human race is continually searching, searching for the one thing which has eluded generations, but only because they are looking in all the wrong places. It is as if they were to go to a grocery store knowing that they came for something but not remembering what it is. With eyes drifting across the shelf, they glance at the top and at the bottom just in case that one item was tucked away in some recess. Walking through the aisles their cart is filled with all sorts of products, but not one seems to be that for which they came. Upon arriving home they unload their newly acquired goods and enjoy them for a while, but they eventually realize that that one product is still missing.
In John Updike’s Pigeon Feathers, young David is confronted with opposition to his faith in God. Questions about death and resurrection arose but his parents and religious leader were too preoccupied or ignorant to be of any help. Not until he was examining the intricate work of a pigeon’s feather did he realize that “the God who had lavished such craft upon these worthless birds would not destroy His whole Creation by refusing to let David live forever.” David was truly searching for answers to his questions but his resources were lacking; until he looked at the lowly pigeon and saw the care and intricate feathers that had been created that he found some answers. He realized that God did care and had surely provided a way for him to live with Him forever.
Another author used the example of animals to reveal the point she was trying to get across, Mrs. Turpin of Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation” was righteous in her own eyes, but in God’s she was a racist “pig.” It took a lunatic girl and some deep thinking before Mrs. Turpin realized the revelation that God was trying to show her. She was just like a shopper who thought she had everything but when reality struck, she was found lacking. Mrs. Turpin was being hypocritical and a self-imposed judge on those around her. Faith in “religion” was what she had but by the end of the story Mrs. Turpin was looking for what God was trying to show her. After seeing a vision and washing her pigs she had a change of heart and realized that she had been wrong. Too often people will get set in their ways and not be willing to listen to the Lord’s voice unless something drastic happens. In both stories the authors used animals; pigeons in one and pigs in another to bring their search to a conclusion. Unlike the shopper, David knew what he wanted, but he failed to realize that God could be seen in the world and things he looked at each day. When he took the time to look at the “product” in front of him, David could tell that he had found the answer in the feathers of a pigeon. Many people are like David and don’t look close enough to find their answers. They spend too much time scanning the shelves and not enough time reading the labels.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote “You, Neighbor God” as if she knew that God was near but hadn’t felt or heard from Him. Doubts begin in people’s minds when they feel that God has been too quiet. People naturally search for a god or higher being in their life. Not until they realize, as Rilke did, that it is the Biblical God who is their silent but near neighbor who will end their search, will they be able to return from the store with satisfaction that they found what they wanted.
American “shoppers” have been duped into buying a product that is a poor imitation of true belief in God. They believe merely merely finding faith in something ends their search. Will Herberg wrote in “Religiosity and Religion” about how “it is not the content of the belief but the attitude of believing that is felt to be operative.” Americans often feel that they are living the good life and because they have religion which provides them with “peace of mind.” “Religion is a spiritual anodyne designed to allay the pains and vexations of existence.” By filling their shopping bags with “religion” they have a sense of peace, because they have bought religion, just like one would purchase a calming medication, to silence their soul’s craving for the truth.
Man’s search continues, searching for the peace that passes understanding, the truth, and the answers to their questions that can only be found in God and His Word. In life, people are continually wandering the grocery aisles, looking and looking for the single item that continues to evade their probing. Eventually, they will find it if they keep looking and searching, unsatisfied with any thing less.