The Power of Longing

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only 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 yet visited.” C.S. Lewisimg_6030

One time I was passing by an artist’s table and my eye caught a glimpse of a painting. I stopped to get a closer look and without knowing why, tears came flowing down my cheeks. I could barely breathe. Something in it moved me beyond words.

The artist saw me weeping and she came over to explain the painting. She said she created it when her mother was dying of cancer.  It was a picture of a figure riding on a horse and beneath it, it said, “He is coming.” At the time, I was working as a nurse for people who were dying of cancer. It was transcendent – the way the colors, the message and the depth touched my heart without first knowing the meaning in the natural.

This is longing. It’s the same thing that happens when we hear a song and weep. It’s what Lewis describes as the meaning of our own past, our desire for a country we haven’t visited, a dream we have yet discovered. It’s what others have called “deep time” — a full awareness of past, present, and future, and of things not being completely as they should be.

When my eyes saw this painting, my own inner longing for wholeness in my patients matched exactly what the artist had created.

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The entire Bible is a narrative full of longing. Its writer is intimately familiar with longing and we were created in His image. So, it’s no surprise when we listen to songs like “The God of Loss” by Darlingside or “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels, or “There Will Be Time” by Mumford & Sons that we put them on repeat, pour a glass of wine, lay our head back, breathe deeply, and are transported to another place where our longings are stirred and hopes arise. We are listening to the sound of heaven. We were made for this.

And what comes through them is not just the beauty of the perfectly crafted stanza, the harmonious blend of chords and voice, but it’s Him. It’s His voice calling us.

Deep unto deep.

We were made for more.

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Only the brave lean into their longings; those who are not afraid to experience hope deferred because they are fully confident in their Comforter.

And those brave ones who lean into their longings and experience the grief of what can feel like a withholding of good, a stone for bread, a snake for fish, fully open themselves up to the true character of their Maker and the fellowship of the suffering of the saints.

Our intimacy with others, our intimacy with Him is directly proportional to the amount of courage and honesty we have when naming our own longings. We must embrace and not run from them. It’s in this tense and secret place where we are assured that there truly is more.

It’s where we start to know fully what we only know in part.

It’s where we start believing that this world is not our home.

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