Sunday, September 02, 2007


I experienced longing again today as I was down by the lake. It reminded me of an article I wrote about 5 years ago - so I thought I'd post it for you all. Here goes ...

It happened just before Christmas. It happened to me as I looked at the 30 or 40 people, talking and laughing, clustered together in my kitchen/family room - seeing neighbours and church members becoming my friends. Something happened that night to ignite my imagination. It could actually happen anytime. It might be happening all the time. It may have happened to you this morning as you glanced out your bedroom window or as you stepped out your front door. For some, it may not have happened for a very long time - maybe not since you were very young, for it tends to happen more often when you are young. Sometimes we forget how it happens.

For me it happens as the snow begins to lightly fall on a cold still night. It happens when I lie on my back to look at the stars on a clear night. It happens when I watch a favorite movie. It happens when I think about my childhood and the innocence of being a little boy. It happens when I watch children playing, or hold a baby, or spend time with an old friend. It happens in springtime when the first warm day hits and I can smell things growing. It happens when I see the trees first begin to change colour in autumn. It happens when I hear an old song on the radio. It happens when I watch big fluffy clouds float by on a warm sunny day. It happens when I see an old man sitting by himself at a table in the mall. It happens when I stand on the top of a big hill or mountain and can look around for miles. It happens in church when I worship. It happens when I think about my calling. It happens when I walk my neighbourhood. Sometimes it just sneaks up on me and overwhelms me with the force of its power and I'm left shaken. Other times it just slowly builds until I know it's there but can't quite put my finger on it.

Looking east from the end of my driveway - late August at around 6:30am

What happens is … longing - longing that ignites the imagination into dreaming what might be. It's that bittersweet ache at the very centre of your being - that desire for something more, something you can't quite put your finger on but that you hope against hope might be true. It is a longing … for beauty, fullness, purpose, adventure, belonging, love … longing for something that is just beyond the edges of your consciousness. It is a longing for the eternal - for the best in life, for heaven, for God. I believe that longing is something spiritual put in our hearts by our Creator. It is at its core, a longing for the eternal. It's called desire, zeal, passion. Those who experience it are often called incurable romantics, dreamers or visionaries. Sometimes the Bible calls it thirst or hunger. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." We can't live without it. We cannot be human without it. God has placed it in our hearts.

John Gaynor Banks says it this way: "Desire is a mighty force, one of your most divine attributes … see the God-like quality of desire! For it is part of the Atomic Energy of the soul. The kingdom of heaven within you is operated by desire. Do not quench it or crush it … rather offer it to God." Psalm 37:4 says: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Desire is very individual. It is given to us to guide our way, to find our purpose in life, to discover our calling, our destiny. This deep desire in our hearts for eternal things is placed there by God. Think about it. We are not fully satisfied when we achieve merely earthly goals. We are left longing for more, something eternal.

Fundamentally, this longing is consummated in our worship of the eternal - our worship of God. John Eldridge writes: "Our hearts live for an experience of worship that fills our being with a joy that is so deeply in awe of the Other that we are barely aware of ourselves. God is the wellspring of anything that has ever romanced your heart - the thundering strength of a waterfall, the delicacy of a flower, the stirring capacity of music, the richness of the best food, the depths of true love."

C.S. Lewis adds: "When we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak."

Unfortunately most of us never really allow this longing to do its work in us. We’ve been falsely taught that holiness is niceness, contentment means eliminating passion and to actually admit to being dry, thirsty, longing for more is unspiritual or psychologically unsound. We’ve pushed away desire, afraid that it might be lust, not making the effort to discern the difference. Rarely, if ever, does deep desire find expression in our worship services, or even in our prayers. Afraid of being disappointed, we push down the majestic desires and God-inspired dreams of our lives, not allowing ourselves to hope. Instead, we settle for manageable goals, measurable outcomes, diluted passion and safe dreams. We accept bland lives, dead-end jobs, comfortable church, and the tyranny of the urgent. We've been bought off by the promise of a comfortable life and settle for the shadows of real excitement through television. We sell our birthright for a little bit of pleasure and some peace and quiet. We've learned to reduce our desire to a more manageable size. The chilling danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry. But let's be honest about what we've done and call it what it is ... sin.

If it is sin, we must repent and open our lives to the adventure God has in store for us. We must open our hearts and be vulnerable. We must live in such a way that we risk disappointment and pray for the impossible. Someone once said that there is no prayer that after having prayed it God did not wish it were bigger.

Are you hungry for a deeper intimacy with the Creator of your heart? Do you long for your community to be different? Does your heart go out to your neighbours? Do you long for them to encounter God’s best? Do you thirst for the kingdom? Do you hunger for the eternal? He made us that way.

I have a longing for more … more of God, more of His Kingdom, more of the eternal, more of the transforming power of His Spirit … changing my life and the lives of the people who I meet on my street every day.

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