Where do you go to, my lovely?
Recently, whilst driving, I heard Peter Sarstedt’s song of 1969 being played: ‘Where do you go to, my lovely?’ You will probably know it. It seems to be about a girl called Marie-Claire who has joined the ‘jet set’ and is connected in some way with Paris. The refrain which runs through the song seems to question whether she has found contentment in all she enjoys as part of the ‘jet-set’. In particular, the question is asked about her deepest dreams and whether her dearest aspirations have truly been met:
But where do you go to, my lovely
When you're alone in your bed?
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do
A little research into the song unearthed a range of theories as to what Sarstedt had in mind when he wrote the song. For some it is a parody on ‘Marie Claire magazine’. For others its reference to Naples points to Sophia Loren. It may be either, both, or none of these, or a bit of both. However, it is clearly an insight of the song writer that our thought-life, the places to which we travel in our imagination, the scenarios we play out in our daydreams reveal a great deal about what makes us tick.
Archbishop William Temple is reported as saying ‘Your religion is what you do with your solitude.’ In other words, the true god of my heart is revealed by where my thoughts effortlessly go to in my moments of relaxation, when other demands have lifted. Our daydreams betray our heart’s deepest desires. What do you waken up thinking about? What scenario’s do you play and replay in your imagination? What dreams do you nurture in your idle moments? Therein may lie the true gods of your heart. For some people the dream of money and material things is what drives them through life, and what they dream of attaining with their lives. For others the prospect of romance dictates the course of their living and fires their imagination, and for yet others the relentless pursuit of success provides motivation day by day.
There is no great surprise in this. Human beings have a warped tendency towards idolatry. Our hearts are what the writer Timothy Keller has described as ‘an idol factory’. The apostle Paul says the same thing when he writes:
For even though they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. … For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:21, 25)
Recently we were reading in Colossians:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5)
We need to honestly identify our idols in order to repent of them. Yet there is much more to the Christian life. There is a need not only to take off the old but to put on the new:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)
I recently travelled to Galloway to meet a friend and revisit some hills I have not walked for many years. After walking along the Buchan ridge near Loch Trool we descended and made our way to Loch Valley. In keeping with a long-standing reputation, I managed twice to fall into bog up to my knees. My uncanny ability to find bog leads some walking companions to insist that I always go first!
I duly returned home wearing a great deal of Galloway bog up my trousers and even across my shirt. It was necessary to remove all the dirty clothing. However, you will be relieved to learn that I opted not to spend the rest of the day stark naked. Clean clothes replaced the dirty. Jesus made the same point in parable form when He referred to a man who swept out a demon but failed to replace it and the end result was worse.
When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. (Luke 11:24-26)
I recently had a conversation with someone during which we touched on health issues raised by excessive drinking. His instinctive comment was ‘But you are a minister so you won’t be guilty of that.’ I was struck by two things. First of all his naivety in imagining that ministers were not susceptible to that particular temptation. Indeed, I have known of some ministers who were unable to take a drink without continuing until they fell over. More importantly, this seemed a very negative view of the Christian life. It was all about what I don’t do.
In the Christian life, we must shed our idolatry but replace it with a love for Christ, a readiness to adorn His graces and listen to and heed His word. Allowing the word of God to dwell in us richly is a lifelong challenge and joy, something that truly makes us human and is infinitely rewarding.
To return to where we began - where do you go to in your mind and imagination, and what does it reveal?