Five individuals, lonely and isolated, each with great dreams, live in a small mill town. They are characters in Carson McCullers’ novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, published in 1940 (you may have read it in high school or college). Four of McCullers’ characters gather around the other central character who, they believe, understands them, but who actually listens to them merely to be polite. The book presents a poignant but bleak picture of the human condition – people yearning for connection and fulfillment but in the end remaining isolated and alone.
As I read the book, last month’s selection for the St. John’s Book Club, the words of St. Augustine kept coming to me: “Thou hast made us for thyself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” We all, at one time or another, have felt that restlessness in our hearts and have gone searching.
And what have we discovered? Sooner or later, we have come to understand that our only true rest is in God. Only resting in God can assuage the human heart. Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 KJV).
As Christians, we have quite a different world view from the one depicted by Carson McCullers. As we rest in God and follow God’s way, we grow in our capacity to love. We find ourselves loving God more, our neighbors more, our fragile earth more. Instead of living with the loneliness and isolation that McCullers describes, we have been given a loving and caring community of souls who love us and care for us. And in return for God’s great love and goodness, together in community we reach out to those who are lonely and isolated, who are searching for something to take away their pain or someone who will love them.
This is the work we have been given to do, and we do it gratefully, thankfully, for we know that we are free, that we are loved, and that our hearts are at rest in the heart of God.