San Juan Capistrano, a small city in southern California, is famous for the swallows that arrive and depart every year with predictable consistency. Around March 19 they can be expected to arrive, and around October 23 (the day that Saint John of Capistrano died in 1456), they can be expected to depart. “Like swallows returning to Capistrano” is a proverbial way to speak of that which is done by nature or by instinct.
Fortunately, we do not cycle between the northern and southern hemispheres on an annual basis! Indeed, we are distinguished from the animal kingdom by our ability to choose our destinations—where, when, and with whom we will go. The ability to choose reflects the image of our Creator God, and contributes significantly to an identity which sets apart from everything else that has life. However, there is one destination which all of the earth’s peoples seek instinctively—one yearning which makes us like the swallows of Capistrano—and that is our “instinctive” yearning for eternity.
Don Richardson, a modern missionary-anthropologist, has studied human cultures in the most remote parts of the world. His book, Eternity In Their Hearts, shows how people all over the world—from the Stone Age tribes in New Guinea to the sophisticated secularists of the West—demonstrate a yearning for God. They may not know the true God, but they know he exists. Why is this so? Because God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” If there is no God, why do peoples of all cultures seek him? They seek him because he made them. As Capistrano is inscribed in the genetic material of a swallow, so eternity is written deeply in the souls of all people. A longing for God is the one part of a person’s identity which cannot be “turned off.” It can be denied, resisted, even cursed—but it cannot be removed.
If you long for heaven, it is because the God who made you is there. But he is also here, confirming that part of who we are is a seeker after him.
God’s Promise to You: “Your longing for eternity is evidence that I exist and that you are my unique creation.”