Longing

I’ve written about longing before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. Because longing is a theme that I find surfacing in my life again and again. And, if my suspicions are correct, I’m not the only one.

One of my all-time favorite writers is John Eldredge. In “The Sacred Romance,” he writes: “Something calls to us through [the deep experiences of our lives] and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure. This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality. It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. However we may describe this deep desire, it is the most important thing about us, our heart of hearts, the passion of our life.”

Why is it that we always want more? That we always desire the “next thing”? Why, no matter how much we have acquired or attained, do we always feel dissatisfied?

Despite all the beauty in this world, despite all the good and delightful things available to us, there is something in us that knows that this is not “it.” In the deepest place of our souls, we know that we have not yet found the answer we’re looking for, we’ve not yet been introduced to the one thing that can bring true fulfillment.

And yet, we fight this realization. It is too depressing to contemplate the idea that we might not ever find the fulfillment of our longing in this life. And so we try to fill that longing with an ever-increasing variety of substitutes. We try to find the perfect relationship, or the perfect project to engage our energies. Or we try to create the perfect environment (this is my weakness) where we think that we will feel truly comfortable, inspired, refreshed, relaxed, what-have-you. And of course, we buy, buy, buy. We buy cars and houses and furniture and vacations. But we also buy the newest deoderant, the newest flavor of coffee, the newest kitchen gadget—and for a moment or two we honestly believe that these things will make our lives better, will make us feel really fulfilled.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting “stuff.” I like beautiful things. I like to try new foods, new products. But the problem comes when we make these things into gods, when we give them the responsibility to make us happy.

We shortchange ourselves when we think that any of these things can fulfill our deepest desires. We are humans—beings of unfathomable intricacy—made up of physical bodies, and thoughts, and emotions, and a spiritual awareness. To think that an object, no matter how large or luxurious—or an experience, no matter how exciting—or a single relationship, no matter how perfect—to think that any of these things or combination of them can fulfill the deep, intricate, unmappable depths of our human soul is not only foolish—it’s utterly self-deprecating.

I believe that the answer is to stop searching for the fulfillment of this longing, and instead to let the longing lead us to our true desire. Rather than running after the things we think will fill the ache, we need to take the time to sit down and let the longing just wash over us. For, I believe, it is in that place of deep longing that we come closest to knowing our own souls, to understanding who we truly are and what we truly were made for. And when we launch out from that place—looking not to find fulfillment, but instead to simply enjoy the journey for all the glimpses of joy that if offers—it is then that we come closest to finding peace with that longing in our soul.

Fear

Today I find myself thinking about fear.  Recently, a friend of mine had to watch her tiny son go through a very serious medical infection.  Afterward, she wrote: “I wasn’t worried about him and was not scared. I asked for prayer because I believe that prayer changes things. Prayer is a conversation with God, where He speaks to you and gives you peace. If you don’t feel peace after praying for something, you haven’t prayed effectively. You need to get in the place of secret prayer where the Lord changes the way you think and feel about the situation.”

This is a hard challenge, at least for me.  While I am not the type of person that is overly beset by fears, there are certainly times when fear and worry seem to be the only responses I can muster.  This is especially true when my children are in any kind of danger, whether real or perceived.

But I know that my friend was telling the truth when she says she wasn’t worried or scared.  She is one of those rare people that remain stable and confident even in the face of huge uncertainties.  I admire this about her, and hope to be able to emulate it more and more as time goes by.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. -1 John 4:18

If we are living with fear–any kind of fear, no matter how reasonable it may seem–we are believing a lie.  Maybe we believe that God is not capable of helping us or protecting us.  Maybe we believe that He doesn’t want to help us, that He isn’t entirely trustworthy, that His nature isn’t completely good.  Maybe we don’t believe that He can work good for us out of painful, difficult situations.  Maybe it’s some other subtle lie that we’ve accepted as reality.  If we’re feeling afraid, it’s time to ask God to reveal what lie we’re believing that is causing us to live in fear.  And then make daily choices to replace that lie with Truth in our lives.  It won’t be a quick or easy process, but we can live fear-free days and nights.

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. -Deuteronomy 31:6

Enemy in our Fridge?

There’s just something about food that makes me happy.  The smell of bread baking or pasta sauce simmering on the stove, the texture of a chocolate—chip cookie still warm from the oven, the refreshment of ice-cold lemonade on a summer day…food is a comfort and a joy and a celebration.

In an age when everyone is worried about their cholesterol levels and their blood pressure and their body-mass index, food has almost become an enemy—something to be viewed with suspicion and distrust—a kind of necessary evil.

But is this really how God intended us to interract with food-as if it’s nothing more than a temptation to be resisted?  A pitfall to be on our guard against, except on rare “special” occasions when we’re allowed to indulge in the pleasure of trans-fats and real sugar?

In God’s system, food has always been something good, something to enjoy.  It has always been a part of the important celebrations of life.  Think of the unleavened bread and the roasted lamb at Passover.  Or the wine at the wedding in Cana.  The fattened calf at the Prodigal Son’s feast.  So why is it so hard for us, in our modern culture, to put food in its proper place?

I have to think that our obsession with healthful eating is really only a cover-up for a darker obsession, an imbalance in our collective view of what’s really important in life.  There is a pressure upon us to be “perfect” in every way possible—we have to look perfect, have the perfect job, drive the best-looking car, hang out with the right crowd.  Everywhere we turn, there’s pressure to have it all together, to present a pristine appearance to the people and the culture around us.

And so, we obsess over what we eat, making sure that our co-worker can find no fault in our lunch choices, that our latte has no more calories than the girl in the cubicle next to us.  We even obsess over our children’s food, fearful that we’ll be the only parent at the playground without whole-grain crackers and organic juice boxes.

But are we really accomplishing anything?  Have we really managed to attain perfection in this area of our lives?  And if so, are we any happier—any more fulfilled—for all our efforts?  Do we ever really even enjoy the food on our plates anymore?  Questions to ponder…meantime, I’m off to eat a donut.