Did you know that?
This was enthralling to me from a young age. Not so much the #2 thing – although as a boy I was pretty excited about it- but that I could use that word in a sentence… Everyone.
I could say everyone does ______! That blew my mind! How could that be?
Once I started growing up and seeing the world a little, I started to notice that not everyone was the same. Not everyone came from a family with the median height of 4’6″. Not everyone ate french toast for dinner. Not everyone was the same skin color as me. Not everyone was as loved as I was. Not everyone was as privileged.
But I did know this… everyone pooped. We, as a human race, were united in our pooping. I knew at anytime, somewhere around the world, someone was pooping. It was what made the world go round. And the toilet water.
The more I grew, the more this idea stuck. While I became accustomed to the language of inclusivity and acceptance that I was taught on account of virtue, still, I wondered, why don’t we ever talk about what makes us the same.
If everyone has to sleep. And has to eat and drink. And has to wake up under the same sun and fall asleep under the same moon. Then there has to be more to this life. There has to be something that I share with my fellow human being that stretches beyond flesh, bone and what happens after we digest our food.
Turns out the Holy Spirit took care of this. Don’t let your eyes glaze over when reading these. I know how it goes when we read Scripture:
“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,” (Psalm 27:4, 8).
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-8).
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water… Because your love is better than life” (Psalm 63:1-8).
“And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26-26).
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-4, 10).
“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry’” (John 6:33, 35a).
The ONE thing I ask is to dwell in the house of the Lord ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE. My soul PANTS for you, God. My souls THIRSTS for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. My soul YEARNS and FAINTS for you, Lord.
We are a lonely bunch, it seems. Sad saps. But it all makes sense. You and I are not so different after all. We are united in our journey. United in our loneliness. We are United in OUR LONGING.
Now when I talk about a longing, let me explain what I mean. Have you ever experienced these?
Homesickness when you are already at home? Loneliness – like inexplicable loneliness that seems to have no root in anything? Restlessness – like a check my phone every minute and half to see who texted, refresh facebook to see if anything new will fill that void, flip channels mindlessly, pace the house and open the refrigerator even though you are not hungry, working only because it gives you purpose sort of restlessness? Sadness for no reason? Unsatisfied coupled with a feeling that nothing can satisfy? Grumpy for no reason, like you just woke up from a nap? A burning in your chest and stomach?
Yes, you have experienced these. Probably all of them. Because we are all united in our longing.
Even John Mayer in all his, well, John Mayerishness knows what I mean. In fact he is the billboard for proving this point:
Here is the thing. The world will break our hearts. It always will. People will hurt us. They won’t live up to the expectations we place on them. Suffering is imminent. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. And so we head out on this road together. Always aching and always looking to be filled.
The Holy Spirit gave us language to sum up this journey we all share. He summed it up in three of the most powerful words ever written: God is love.
God is love. God is love.
Love, this ever-elusive thing we can never seem to get under our control. Love, this word that guides our every action, both good and bad. Love, this great mystery of our existence now actually has a name. And it is God.
You see if God is love, then He must be the center of the world as we know it. He must be the center of every crappy song, every dead horse movie script that we love to watch, every vampire novel that somehow attracts us. God is there. There is something in us that draws us there. Something that keeps us coming back and makes us believe that perfection, amidst all of our shortcomings and speed bumps and life’s hiccups and any other cliché these songs and stories show us, is attainable. There is something innate in us that desires the ideal that these stories attract us to. That something has a name and it is Love.
“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 27
But WHY? WHY is this our reality? WHY would God abandon us with these desires that cannot be filled? What a tyrant!
You are a product of Heaven. Literally, you were born by Love, created for it and destined to return, fully, to that Love. So this ache is nothing more than a yearning with everything that you are saying that “it is not supposed to be this way!” Through that first act of disordered love that we call original sin, we distrusted this truth. We distrusted that we were created for Love, by Love and destined for Love. So we tried to go out on our own. We were separated at birth from our Father. And now we are left as orphans jumping from one foster family to the next, never satisfied with the identity they give us.
“Our home is Heaven. On earth we’re like travelers staying at a hotel. When you’re away, you’re always thinking of going home.” – St. John Vianney
But Christianity is a love story. God never left us and never will. It is a love story even better than When Harry Met Sally. It is a love story of God reaching out to his people. Of God pursuing us so that we can experience the depths of Him and therefore the depths of ourselves that we so desperately want.
Think about what draws us to love stories to begin with:
“I will give you everything and do anything in my power to love you for the rest of our lives,” we long to hear.
“Do you love me? My God, if your love were a grain of sand mine would be a universe of beaches,” Westley says to Buttercup.
“You are my life’s mission, my purpose. ”
“You are what I think about when I make up and when I go to sleep.”
“I will die with you in your bed at the nursing home and read you our diary even though you don’t remember me because you have Alzheimer’s.”
Nicholas Sparks did not write that novel!! Princess Buttercup was not the first to want to be so loved!! God wrote this story on your heart when he created you in the foundation of the world. He is the author and you are His muse. He is after you. He wants your heart not because He wants the glory, but because He wants to give you the glory you seek. God is such a good story-teller, in fact, that he wrote a surprise ending that no one expected. He said, “I am going myself. You can know me as I know you, flesh, bone, heart and soul.”
He gave us His son to show us how to fill the ache. How to live our lives in a way that gives us the “radiant joy” we seek. He does not abandon us in our yearning. This love story is not one-sided. Jesus showed us God’s love is complete, never-ending and everything we desire. “What are you looking for?” are some of the first words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Jesus comes as the answer to the deepest longings in our heart. He shows us where we came from, who we are to be right now and to where we are destined. As John Paul II says, “Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself.”
If you are, as I am, searching for this fulfillment, I beg you, keep seeking. There is something greater in your midst, in your very heart. That ache you feel, that longing, the wanting to transcend, it’s not just you. AND IT IS OK TO FEEL IT.
I make the most important point in this post by asking this… what do you do when that ache comes? Where do you turn? We have become so accustomed to avoiding this longing. We feel like something is wrong. We feel damaged. No one understands us. Or maybe, for a lot of us, we don’t even know that we are running from it. So we either repress these feelings or we indulge in things that will only leave us more hungry.
So again, I ask, what are your idols that fill this void? What are the things or people or disordered acts of love that you go to, that are not God, to fill the ache. I know for certain that I have idols. Like you, I struggle and I struggle greatly. But I write from a place that is always learning to bring this yearning to God. I am always learning how to make my life a constant desire for the Love I was created for. And sure enough, one by one, these idols have disappeared from my life.
This longing is one of God’s greatest gifts. What you are looking for is Love and that Love has a name and that name was written on your heart from the foundation of the world. And He wants to let you know where to find it. God wants your heart so he can give you His. He says, “I stand at the door and knock” to let you know how deep His love is. He will never barge in. He waits like a Father waits for his child’s return, with loving expectation, nudging, waiting to fill your deepest longings. You are longing for more and the answer awaits you.