We feel it acutely when we are alone or lost or when grief sideswipes into our lives. Longing: The ache for something more comes haunting into our hearts and we crave to fill this space. On a sweet morning walk, a friend confides that she is lonely much of the time. Her heart longs for friendship -- connection with other moms -- but she is in that season when kids are sick more often than they are healthy, when naptime trumps all connecting possibilities, when other moms are committed to education with the children in hours she has free. It is a lonely season. She is longing.
Another friend is in the straddle of a home sale. Hers is in escrow and the home she wanted is off the market now. The dreams she had of moving and building a nest with all her personal touches that say, "home," are temporarily stalled. A fog replaces the clear vision she thought she had. She is longing.
A friend and I meet for supper at a diner and amidst the seniors and the special which includes liver and onions we share stories and tears about a broken relationship. Heart broken and unsure of what can heal a gaping pain when the other person is unwilling to make a bridge, we pray and we console and we seek. She is longing.
My friend who has loved me well and devoted hours to supporting me calls with news of her husband. He struggles hard and makes poor choices. He is distant. He is broken. He knows it and pride blocks some healing at this time. He blames and tells tall tales and builds walls where paths should lay low and wide with repentance. She is longing.
And me, I face a season of mingled emotions. My cup is full but it is not perfect and there are many places which feel tender and broken despite the fullness. My heart has felt great losses and my home can feel more like a train station or a play yard than a sanctuary some days. I can look around and see others with something else and feel loss in my own life. I often walk certain inner roads alone. I can be steeped in angst over choices and decisions about parenting and lifestyle. I can know many people and in certain moments feel separated from most. Dear husband comes home tired and spent, having poured himself out to provide our needs. I want his presence and he wants to give, but is drained empty from the grind of responsible adult living. I am longing.
And in our longing we are not alone, though we can experience loneliness with aching and hopeless pangs. Our longings are real and valid. Yet, each longing points beyond itseslf. Each longing is a gift. We resonate with the Psalmist as he wrote "My soul longed, and even yearned for the courts of the Lord." And, Saint Augustine of Hippo when he languished in his heart and cried out,
"Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of You. Do not hide Your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed."Oh, yes, Lord, say it so I can hear it!
Let us not give in to temptation to fill the longing with anything but the real object of our longing -- God is that very filling. The longing is His gift that we may hunger for Him and be filled. Yes, we must share burdens with others; yes, we may have earthly pleasures; yes, we should find ways to delight in His good gifts. But, when those gifts and relationships and the yearning for them to fill us become greater and stronger than our yearning for Him, we will never fill. We must come to Streams of Living Water so that we will thirst no more. Those streams run only from Him. Clear out whatever dams up your heart -- confess it to Him and sit with Him and be filled. I am longing and I am seeking. I feel the bittersweetness. It is bitter to long, but sweet to wait because in the waiting spaces He comes in new ways and in those spaces He is shaping me to be more like Himself. Longing is not comfortable, but longing is oh so good.
We can hold fast to the promise of Martin Luther:
All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask. They will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask.
God promises, "Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts ... he will be filled." It is not the hungering and thirsting that is blessed, though it has a blessing of its own flavor. It is the filling, the promised filling, that is a blessing worth all our hungering.
Just so you know ... The individuals who are mentioned in this post have agreed that I could write about them here. They have read and approved what I wrote regarding their situations before I posted.