Inconsolable Longing

Everyone’s hungry for something. We all ache for more from our relationships. Crave to be a part of something greater in our careers. Desire to be a better family.  Yet, what is inconsolable longing? C.S. Lewis describes it as 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 visited.” Ultimately, it’s the longing to be a part of something sacred, yearning for something more in our experience with God.

I’m beginning to realize how thirsty I’ve been for that experience. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, it hasn’t mattered how many times I’ve attempted to rearrange my relationships, shift my career path or reorder my life, I still return empty handed. I’ve distracted myself by traveling to exotic locales, as if foreign culture could satiate my thirst. I’ve attempted to transfer colleges, changing circles of friends, as if these new relationships would bring me peace. I’ve chased the dream of a corner office as if my name emblazoned on an ivory business card would produce joy and happiness. I’m only just now coming to terms with the fact that my thirst won’t ever be quenched by people, nor gratified by new experiences or achievements.

And I’m not the only one. Going to a Christian school, we all clean up pretty nice. With a head full of mandatory theology classes, required convocations and obligatory bible studies, you could say we’re pretty respectable Christians. But underneath dapper designer button downs and flowery sundresses our souls don’t look so nice. We’re all thirsty and 100% of us long for more of God than currently have.

In the words of Craig Barnes, from his book Sacred Thirst,

 “Until we find relief for the soul, everything else will be nothing more than a distraction- a very temporary one at that- from our fundamental craving for living water. […] We will never find what we are looking for in the things we pick up along the way. Not even the religious things. Not even important things like our relationships. All of these things will leave our souls empty if we try to force them to satisfy our thirst. The true object of our search is nothing less than an encounter with the Holy One.”

I’m beginning to discover the secret of living a fulfilled life, is to not try and find fulfillment at all. But rather to befriend my yearning instead of perpetually avoiding it. To live in my longing rather than trying to incessantly resolve it. To enter the spaciousness of my own emptiness instead of constantly trying to fill it up.*

* A portion of this is paraphrased from The Awakened Heart by Gerald May.