The Longing

There is a longing. A deep unsatisfiable longing for something more. For something, or shall I say, Someone? Something that cannot be satisfied in this life. It is ultimately a longing for heaven. The Bible says, "He has put eternity in the hearts of men." (Ecclesiastes 3.11) That slice of eternity that he has put in our hearts will never be satisfied in time. Here is the rub.

God's desire is to move me toward the longing, not away from it. John Piper is fond of saying, "He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." I agree with him in a way. But in a way, the opposite is also true. Truth is often a midpoint between two extremes. In a way, He is most glorified in us when we are most miserable in our longing for Him.

The Bible teaches that, "The Father is always at work." And what is the Father at work doing? He is at work making you and I miserable-miserable in our longing for Him. The Father is constantly at work driving us deeper and deeper into the longing.

I have been trying my whole life to move in the opposite direction. Like a man pushing and pushing and pushing against a door, trying desperately to get to the other side. Only after years of struggle did I learn that the door opens the other way. I will never get to where I want to go by pushing. I must stand back, allow some space and open the door by moving in the opposite direction-by pulling the door toward me. I must learn to embrace the dream He has for me. The dream is that I would embrace the longing. I must move toward, and not away from, the longing. This shift may be the biggest change of paradigm of my whole life.

Paradigms cause us to see, or keep us from seeing. Paradigms kept Swiss watch makers to see that a time piece without springs and gears could actually be a watch. When the paradigm moved digital, the Swiss lost their shirts. It was a cold winter in Switzerland. The moved from 65% market share in 1968 to 10% in 1980.

Paradigms kept the most religious of Jesus' day from seeing who he really was. "He can't be a prophet. He can't be Messiah. No way. He grew up around here. I coached him when he was a boy. He played on my soccer team, and not all that great a soccer player at that. Messiah? Surely the Messiah would be able to play soccer better than that. Surely he could defend a goal. Anyway, I just don't think of Jesus as the Messiah type. Paradigms kept them from seeing.

Paradigms kept the disciples from seeing the truth. Over and over Jesus tried to explain to them that he would suffer and die and on the third day raise from the dead. Suffer and die wasn't in their Messiah paradigm. Their Messiah paradigm had lots of purple and scepters and kingly stuff. No room for blood and beatings and humiliation and. . . death? Did someone say death? No way. Not the Messiah. The Messiah would die and old man in his bed. An old man ruling peacefully over a vast empire. An old warrior who had fought and won. No death. No suffering. No blood. At least, not his own blood. Someone else's blood maybe, and maybe lots of it. The Messiah is a victorious, kingly warrior. Their paradigm kept them from seeing.

And my paradigm kept me from seeing. I thought that Christian living was only about being obedient to the command of a holy God to rejoice in the Lord always. I tried to be obedient to the command to delight in the Lord. It is about that in a way. I still believe that. Those verses are still in there. They are still true. But that is not all that is true.

A couple plans a special week together. For months they look at travel brochures. They plan every detail. They thumb though the pages of the brochures and picture themselves there together. The squeeze the web to find all the information about their destination. Finally the anticipated week comes. Somewhere in the middle of the second day he says, to her, "I have so been looking forward to this week together. I have been so looking forward to this time with you."

"Is it as good as expected?" She responds. He hesitates, wanting to communicate honestly but carefully. He wants to speak the truth in love. "Imagine a child at Christmas. When is the child happier, on Christmas eve, before all the gifts are opened, looking forward to Christmas morning? Or, is it Christmas afternoon, when all the presents are unwrapped and carefully put away? He is contentedly playing with one of his toys. He is not disappointed at all. Still, when is he happier, on the night before Christmas, or Christmas afternoon? Is he happier in the longing, or in the satisfaction?"

The longing is always happier than the satisfaction. It is why we must embrace the longing. Nothing is better than the longing. Nothing compares to the longing. And to think, all my life I have avoided the longing.