“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – CS Lewis
I am blessed and cursed with a very powerful sense of longing. I’ve never found the words to describe it adequately, which is part of the blessing and curse. While generally being the kind of guy who is more likely to use or indulge such non-stop, all-consuming hunger as motivation for some kind of action (be it noble or not), I have also strategically tried to escape its incessant hold on me…
By denying it.
By avoiding it.
By medicating it.
By pushing it down.
By judging it as impractical.
By acting as if it was satisfied.
By pretending it was not there.
By trying to delegate it to others.
But no matter what, I’ve never been able to suppress this thirst. It has been a constant companion. In my youth (past) and immaturity (still present), it has compelled me to do some incredibly unwise, even crazy, and sometimes outright stupid things. I have no regrets in this regard, mind you, for looking back, those things served as a litany of experiments and tests. They have cost me, but they have also enlivened and grounded me, authenticating that this longing in me is real and indestructible.
As I’ve grown older, slower, and more easily tired, I’m so grateful for this relentlessness. It serves as an old friend, one that I depend on as motivation for my worthiest endeavors and achievements.
What is this longing I speak of? As I said, I can’t nail down into one set of words, but that is not to say that I haven’t used some to try.
I long to matter.
I long for love and to love.
I long to see. I long to know.
I long for peace. I long for joy.
I long for healing and to heal.
I long to give. I long to receive.
I long for truth. I long for grace.
I long to experience. I long to risk.
I long for justice. I long for forgiveness.
I long for relationship. I long for reconciliation.
I long for good. I long for great. I long for perfect.
I long for victory. I long for redemption. I long for glory.
I long for a plan. I long for spontaneity. I long for adventure.
I long to be righted. I long for things to be righted. I long to participate in righting.
I long for life…to the fullest extent that it is available to a human being…that is what I long for.
Writing this list of words is quite unsatisfying. None of them, not even all of them, can capture this longing. It is at times subtle, at others obvious. It is sometimes overt, sometimes covert, but always subverts everything.
Certain thoughts, sights, and experiences seem to flare it up…
When I see the hungry. The thirsty. The oppressed.
When I see tears of hurt, anger, despair, or loneliness.
When violence breaks out, in thought, word, or deed.
When someone hurts someone, be it themselves or others.
When injuries happen. When sickness comes. When tragedy hits.
When lies are told. When masks are utilized. When hypocrisy is practiced.
When suspicion is called for. When skepticism pays off. When pessimism results.
And especially death. The death of anything, really, so long as it qualifies as “good”. A dream. A childhood. An innocence. An animal. A relationship. An idea. A motivation. An enthusiasm or spirit. A marriage. A person.
This longing…this hunger…this thirst… it simultaneously must be and can’t be satisfied!
It makes me walk through pain for the joy on the other side, and long for more.
It makes me call my dad and settle things between us, and long for more.
It makes me engage fully with my wife, and long for more.
It makes me present with my kids, and long for more.
It leads me to friends of depth, and long for more.
It drives me to give, and long to give more.
Ultimately, it makes me start movements that have no end, not projects that get done. And they are investments that demand as much or more than they will ever seem to payoff. It puts me smack dab in the middle of “problems” that are over the top, over my head, and overwhelming, while I get to feel under qualified, under resourced, and under the weight of it all. It gets me involved in issues that are so big, they will never, ever be solved…the work will never be finished.
Why do it then? Well, because…I long for it. I must. I guess the best answer would come by comparing the longing to an addiction. Not an unhealthy, self-defeating, chosen addiction like alcohol or drugs or workaholism…but a healthy, necessary addiction, like food or water or sleep.
Something in me knows that I’m contributing to something very worthwhile and satisfying now, and something that will be ultimately solved and satisfied later.
The way Jesus said it was, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”