Longings are waypointers.
Songs are written around them.
Writers wax poetic about them.
Psychologists try to explain them.
Artists capture them through expressions in soulful eyes.
Our bodies sometimes ache because of them.
And somehow they seem to be tied to hope.
They are as much a part of our DNA as our eye color.
Question is what do we do with our longings?
Solomon's longing for meaning in life caused him to take up his pen and write Ecclesiastes, a fascinating treatise on the meaning of life--the stuff of philosophers for millennia, and important for Christians to acknowledge.
First off, what caused me to think about the subject was the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week. Let's be clear-suicide is not usually about unfulfilled living, but is most often a result of some kind of mental illness which leads to despair. Just this time of year, several years ago, one of my FCA1students called in tears to tell me her mother had killed herself that morning. Absolutely heartbreaking. And here's the thing: this was a Christian woman with a loving family, and a meaningful job. Depression just beat her. She knew the meaning of life, had her priorities straight and all of that ... she just lost her own mental battle.
If you are there: please call 1-800-273-8255, the 24-hour, National Suicide Lifeline.
Secondarily, I am aware of my own longings, and I have been thinking long and hard about them. The Hebrew word Solomon used when he said, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,"ishevel2. It means 'breath', more narrowly, 'mere breath'. The older a person gets, the more she realizes how true that is- life is but a breath, something akin to what James said, "For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes."3
Solomon considered education/intellectual accomplishments, satisfaction through pleasure - laughter, wine, projects, possessions, sexual pleasures. Denying himself nothing, he still longed for more. His job - 40 years as king, still did not 'do it' for him
~>religion in itself, did not, unless . . . it pointed to relationship.
"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."4 Could that be so? Yes, we will come up short if we are looking for meaning 'under the sun', that which is on earth.
In the final analysis, it is Solomon's conclusion thatpurpose in life is found in knowing God.
I love how Augustine more fully expressed this: Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.5
But wait . . . there's more. In thinking of myself, (after all-I know more about me than anyone else), I know I have a strong faith in God and in his goodness, his plans for my life - which is why I know my purpose, and yet . . . I acknowledge I have longings too. In my early acknowledgment of these pangs, I felt a little less than, so I took them to God in prayer. And here is what I came up with, as I prayed, writing in my Moleskine:
"O God you are the rudder in my life, the anchor and my port in any storm. I rest my case in, on and with you, God. And like the psalmist, I know that in your presence is fullness of joy.6" Truly, my longings point me to God. Check out that whole verse in psalms -
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Wow!
Unpacking a little more of our longings next time. Did you know our longings have great value?
1 - Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a nationwide on-campus club, which I led at San Clemente High School for four years.
2 - Ecclesiastes 1.2
3 - James 4.14
4 - Ecclesiastes 1.14
5 - Confessionsof Hippo, 354 - 430
6 - Psalm 16.11