“Mama once told me, you’re already home where you feel loved.” —The Head & the Heart
I remember the first time I identified a deep inner longing. I was standing in a Christian bookstore somewhere in Michigan. I don’t even remember what city I was in. I had recently become a believer and there I was, just standing there. I didn’t want to leave, and yet I didn’t really know what I was looking for.
I just liked the feeling of being there.
So I stood there for a very long time.
I was 22.
When I was much younger I had the same longing, I just didn’t have a name for it.
I would ride my bike through my neighborhood after dark and there were certain houses with big windows that always had plenty of lights on inside. I’d slow down and sometimes even stop completely in front of these houses so I could look inside. If there were windows open, which there almost always were, I’d hear conversations, televisions, dinner plates. I’d see families being families.
They weren’t doing anything special, but I wanted to be a part of them somehow.
Later —much later, I discovered I wasn’t alone in my longing.
The Vulnerable, Aching Longings
There are so many longing places in the Word:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” —Romans 8:19
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth as a woman in labor in pain, together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” —Romans 8:22-23
When I first read that, I felt as if I found someone who understood. There it was. The longing.
David knew it too:
“As the deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul longs for thee, O God.”
And then it began to make sense. The longing.
It wasn’t just me.
I wasn’t overly needy or broken in some way.
The longing was with everyone.
It was for God.
The Thirsty Soul
Before I knew Him, my longing was unexplainable. It was like a thirst that could not be quenched. You probably can relate. People don’t really talk about the longing, but you can see it everywhere. It’s a quiet desperation, a wanting for “something.” Most of the time it feels like a dull ache that isn’t readily identifiable, but it’s there.
You can see it in our desire to be thin, to be pretty, to be accepted, to be successful, to be wanted. It is the longing that cries out from the core of our being. It reveals itself in restless behavior, unquenchable appetites for material things, overloads of outward stimuli, and extreme behavior.
It Cannot Be Silenced
I have discovered that it doesn’t go away.
Left unanswered, the longing will grow. It cannot be silenced. Not with money or food or cosmetic surgery. Not with a new outfit, a new car, or a new husband. Oh sure, we can be distracted from it for a while. Projects, education, jobs, babies, and just the hustle and hurry of life. But don’t be fooled. The longing is not gone. We just distract ourselves from it for a while with the noise of the day. At the end of the night and on the weekends, it shows up. Some of us drown it away, believing alcohol can provide some relief. Others, who more aggressively try to silence the longing, drift away on the wings of heavier medication.
We all come back sometime. We check…and like a heartbeat, it’s still there.
It’s All The Same
There is 100% no difference between being a heroin addict and getting up at 3 am with an overwhelming desire to mop the kitchen floor. At it’s very core, every disorder stems from a longing hole. The addiction is just the way we choose to respond to the call. The entire basis of creation is an ebb and flow of call and response. There is nothing in our life that we are “just doing.” Everything is a response to something. Taking a look at our actions can paint a very telling picture of where we are spiritually.
If we would look at addictions and disorders in this way (as a response to a dry and thirsty place) I believe we would have a much higher rate of “throwing off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us, so we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” —Hebrews 12:1
Face to Face
I’ve seen glints of that longing in the eyes of certain people.
John Wood, the homeless man who shared a conversation with Holly and me in Miami had that look. As we talked, he trailed off into a story about who he really was. “I’m a person, just like you, right? My name is John Wood. My parents were good people.” The longing overwhelmed him as he tried to find himself, and he started to cry. Walking the streets in a town with an ocean of people, John was lonely. He said, “People look past me. It’s like I don’t exist.”
I’ve also seen it in the eyes and stories of women struggling with their weight. They just want to be pretty, or healthy, or some other reason…but the food, the cravings, the desire to eat more than we need is another attempt to fill a longing hole.
I’ve seen it in my own life, visiting me wearing so many different masks, almost too many to count. The enemy always comes bearing the gift of a temporary solution, a quick fix, a seductive distraction.
I think deep down we recognize it when we see it…Sometimes we willingly fall.
Are You Lost in a Longing Hole?
Maybe you relate somehow to these words. You feel lost in a longing hole. What is your answer?
What do you do?
Jesus said we needed to become like little children. Whenever I need an answer to anything, I revert to “what would a child do?” When I was little, I allowed myself to feel the longing. I didn’t hide from it. In fact I rode my bike every night to chase it. Years later I stood in the bookstore and fully experienced the longing.
As adults we somehow think it’s not okay to feel.
Stuff it. Suppress it. Take a pill for it.
Longing is Good
Let’s say you fell in love and for some reason your lover couldn’t be with you as much as you would like. What happens? You long for him (or her). It’s perfectly acceptable and even expected, right? Well, it’s the same story with God.
Here’s the deal…
Whether or not you are a believer, you have a longing that only God can fill. He created you to be incomplete without Him. Yes, it’s true. It’s not the girl from Jerry McGuire who will complete you –it’s Jesus. Read the Song of Solomon. It’s the most openly desperate and longing-filled book in the Bible:
“All night long on my bed. I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him. The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. “Have you seen the one my heart loves?” Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go.” —Song of Solomon 3:1-4
There is no need to suppress it, escape it, or even to deny that we have it. If longing is the call, let our response be as children and run to the One who can quench our thirst. As Jesus said to the woman at the well He says to us, “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” —John 4:14
If you are feeling the pull while you are reading this and are not yet a believer, salvation is a free gift and it is available to you, right now, right where you are. The Word invites you, saying: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” —Isaiah 55:1
If you have and are experiencing the longing, you don’t have to stand alone in the bookstore, and you definitely don’t have to sit outside other family’s windows. You could get arrested.
So, What is the Answer?
Your longing is two-fold. It’s for a living relationship with your Creator, the Lover of your soul, and it’s for community. You have a desire to be where other believers gather and to do life with them. If you are a believer, you’re part of a family, you’re part of the body of Christ.
I know…it’s hard to do new things, but trust God, the One who is calling you to Himself. He will satisfy your longing with Himself if you will look to Him first. And then He will bless you with people who will share in your search and passion for the One whom your soul loves.