In the Bible study I lead, we are working through my favorite devotional tool, The Blue Book. The first two chapters we discussed were on Seeking and Longing. They pretty much go hand in hand. I'll use this short prayer to illustrate my point:
Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. -St. Anslem
The more I seek Christ, the more I long for Him and the more I long for Him, the more I seek Him. It's a beautiful rabbit hole of sorts. What's really neat is that God Himself created me to long for Him. And all those other longings in my heart? He placed those there as well. I have always loved The Message translation of 2 Corinthians 5:5. In it, Paul says, "The Spirit of God whets our appetites by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less." What a wonder. There is a little bit of heaven in my heart and that's where all my deep longings take root.
Let that bit of information sink in for a minute... When God knitted you and me together in our mother's wombs, He infused our spiritual hearts, our souls, with longings. Even as we drew our first breath, these longings were doing the important work of revealing God's identity to us.
All humans, believers and non-believers alike, walk this planet searching for their purpose. We look to the heavens and beg for answers about who we are and who God is, when the answers are so much closer than the ceilings of the galaxy. The answers are within us.
Genesis 1:27 tells us, "God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." It is because of this truth, the truth that we have been created in the image of God, that we can be certain we share in His longings.
All longings are a sign of God's life and call to experience God deeply. -Jeff Imbach
Did you hear that? ALL longings, met and unmet, tell us more about who He is. Our unmet longings lead us to seek Him and thus deepen the relationship. Our met longings glorify Him and lead us to worship. So we do know who He is. We just have to get quiet enough to hear our longings speak, then be brave enough to follow where they lead.
If I long to be beautiful, it is because God is the epitome of beauty.
If I long to be creative, it is because God is the master artist.
If I long to be loved, it is because God is the culmination of relationship and intimacy.
If I long to be an athlete, it is because God is victorious in all He does.
If I long to be a musician, it is because God is enjoys music and is worthy of worship.
If I long to be a parent, it is because God is our Father who cares for and nurtures us.
If I long to be funny, it is because God has a grand sense of humor.
If I long to be brilliant, it is because God is the author of wisdom.
If I long to be brave, it is because God is a mighty warrior (on MY team).
If I long to be outdoors, it is because God is the whimsical creator and nature directs my awe to Him.
We all long for different things, so fill in the blank for yourself:
If I long to be ___________ it is because God is __________.
Each longing that is blossoming from the soil of our soul, is leading us into Him and into His will for our lives on earth. Doesn't that knowledge set you free? It should! It should release you from the things of this world that bind you up, so that you can wholeheartedly pursue the longings that He placed within you.
However, these longings that plague us on Earth, when left unmet, can get us into trouble. To sum up that famous C.S. Lewis quote, we can be sure we aren't meant for this world because so many of our longings remain unmet here. This is reassuring and hopeful knowing that one day our anxious hearts will be at peace once and for all when we arrive in heaven, but handling them until then can prove to be a draining task. It is when we grow weary with unmet longings that we begin trying to meet them with worldly things that were never intended to make us whole. Instead of letting Christ fill up the space created by those longings, we turn to lesser things. Our list from above changes into this:
I long to be beautiful, so my money goes towards endless beauty products and my energy goes into what I weigh and what I wear.
I long to be creative, so I let my art become scandalous, doing whatever earns me fame.
I long to be loved, so I give my body and soul away flippantly.
I long to be brilliant, so I lose myself in study and find my identity in my intellect.
I long to be an athlete, so I base my self worth on my performance.
I long to be funny, so I my jokes cross the lines and are always at the expense of others.
Maybe you can fill in the blank with more personal longings. I sure can. When we don't turn over our unmet longings to our Creator, we turn them into idols and let them destroy us. CS Lewis put it this way:
The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things -- the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
Can we name our longings? Can we sit with them in a room and ask God to take all of them on for us? Carrying around longings in a broken world leads us to be weary, but He is strong. Not only is He capable of filling up that lonely space left behind by unmet longings, He wants to. Imagine all those empty spaces of our souls as not vacant anymore, but lived in by our Great Lover. We would be whole people, healthier people, and our lives would glorify Him more.
I am with you in this. I share with you not from a place of perfection, but from my heart, from the hollow places left by my own longings, and from the heartbreak of filling those spaces with destructive idols. But I am hopeful, because now I know, that He created these longings and only He satisfies them. In fact, it is He that I long for. He is the flower I have not yet found, the echo of the tune I have not heard, He is the culmination of all my longings. That's why I have longings, so that I can come to know who He is. And the best part my friends, is that in all this longing, my Savior is longing even more so, to know me.