finding the deep longings

Another Treatise:
I was in class and thinking about other things, this is what happened…

I have not been able to shake the feeling of deep longing.
Where does this come from?
Most Christians including myself want to answer that the deep longing is for Christ.
I do think that this is true, but I think that there is more to the question than the answer
allows.

Why is it that though I have Christ, I long?
Why is it that though I am married to a wonderful woman, I still long for her touch?
Why is it that though I am educated, I desire to continue education?
Why is it that though I have all that I need and most of what I want, I still want more?
Why is it that though I really enjoy being in CA, I continue to miss home?
Why is it that though I am sitting in this class, I wish I was sitting somewhere else?

We have been told that we ascend to a belief in Christ through an act of faith.
This act of faith is a mental jump from not believing to believing.
This leaves God as having the hopes to satisfy us mentally, in the hope of our beliefs.
This also leaves us longing for deeper satisfaction.

God satisfies me conceptually. But not relationally, not materially, not sexually, not
in identity, not politically, not socially, not economically, etc.

Should God satisfy us in all the above?

No. and Yes.

No. because the way that we have theologically understood God in the wrong way,
He is not in the business of satisfying he is not in the business of making you new in
the way that we have traditionally thought. What I mean is that we have had the expectation that
God will fulfill all of my desires. Yes he will, but all of the desires that he in his infinite wisdom
understands us as needing and nothing more or less. Further, when we think of God ‘making new’
we seem to understand this as God taking James and at redemption James become John. James
is a new creation, he is John. But don’t we see that this is a fundamentally wrong way of understanding
satisfaction in becoming new. God will satisfy us, deeply, as we are re-worked by his Holy Spirit.
To continue the illustration, God takes James with all of his pains, mis-created parts, and filthy human
characteristics and he begins to shape and re-shape all of that into a new creation. See God does not create man and woman ex nihilo in this life, he only did this once. The way that God creates now is through coming into covenant with us.

Abraham was not a man of faith because he believed God only, but because God covenanted with him.
There are hundreds of thousands of people who have believed in God and have done great acts of faith.
But only one man in human history has made a covenant with God in the way Abraham did. That covenant
that he entered into with God, made abraham a new creation, because Abraham took a whole life paradigm shift.
Post-covenant Abe had a new view of the world, of life, death, love, hatred, justice, grace, family, etc.
Abraham did not just believe he was revolutionized. He became a man of faith. He began to see the world through
the covenant (which was the grace imparted to him), because it was the promise to him that brought to him the grace
and relationship with God. In this covenant, Abraham’s values are shifted, because it is God who invests in Abraham.

God says to Abe, “I know that you have lied and have dominated females around you for your purposes, I know that you are a fallen creation but I am going to invest in you, I am going to get emotionally involved with you and risk all that I have to love you and hope that you will respond to me. If you respond to me you will see the world in ways you could never imagine.”

Yes. God satisfies us when we realize that having faith means having our paradigms of reality revolutionized, once we step into covenant with God. We are satisfied in our deepest longings because I no longer live for self, but for Adonai. What this means is that I die to my own rights, I take the calls from God. I live to do what God has me do (this is upholding my side of the covenant). I no longer seek safety for myself, I look to the Lord to be my shelter. I no longer look for wealth, because I know that God answers the cry, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I no longer need to fight for myself, because I know that there is no cause worth fighting over because “this day is passing away,” I in covenant with God uphold the value of love over my own love of self and rights. I no longer feel the need to hate and take revenge because I know that my God who feels the pains and anger that I feel, will take revenge on his own time and in his own way. I am not worried about reasoning out why I can have rights to any of these areas that my “Americanism” tells me I ought to fight for, because I am covenanted with God. God has invested in me, he fights for me, struggles with me and is emotionally involved with me, therefore I know that he will help to re-create me as I live or die in this world – I know that he is faithful in death and in life. We have been taught that we are to be “spiritual,” but how this has been translated is that we are allowed to believe what we want as long as we assimilate to the accepted American christian norm.

This assimilation, is what keeps us from tasting the deep satisfaction that comes from God. We must reject the ideologies of American Christianity (which is based on enlightenment principles and a Constantinian church/state based ethic) and enter into covenant with God and allow him to change the way we see all of reality, the way we live, the way we love and the way we interact with all humanity. Something I haven’t stated, is that this covenant with Abraham was not for abraham alone, it is not an individualistic salvific message. Rather Abraham is the father, of an entire nation, an entire community was called to enter into this covenant – they became a covenant community.

We cannot imagine living in this covenant lifestyle in our individualism, because this view of redemption depends upon the life of those around us in order to maintain, because this is a call to live in an alternative lifestyle. One cannot live an alternative lifestyle alone, nor would one wish too. Rather we are called to become an alternative covenant community. A community that is the expression of the covenant we have with God, we are the expression of what it means to “have the mind of Christ.” I know that many of us would feel uncomfortable putting our actions and beliefs into the category of being “in the mind of Christ.” Instead of trying to explain that uncomfortability away why don’t we allow God to change us?

So when I find myself longing, I must revisit the covenant I have made with God, and stand to be re-shaped because I need it, I live in a culture and society that is fast, and powerful, deceptive and secretive. It seeks to form me into its own nationalistic, consumeristic form of humanity. I return to the creator and have me put back together. Longing is a sign that something is out of place, it is not a bad thing, just a signal, a back pain.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

2 thoughts on “finding the deep longings”

  1. Wow, that really gets me thinking. I resonate deeply with that sense of longing being a signal to me that something may be out of alignment — time for a ‘chiropractic adjustment’ alone with my covenant God.

    Yet, as CS Lewis said, sometimes that longing can bear very mixed emotions — it is a reminder for us that the best things of this life have nothing in comparison with what is held in store for us. That very longing can be almost a pleasurable thing as we realize that we are not completely fulfilled now, yet there *is* a true and complete and wonderful fulfilment waiting for us a few steps down the road.

    Hi Wess, sorry I’ve been out of touch for so long — drop me an email and let’s reconnect.

  2. Wess,
    You lost me when you had God criticizing Abraham for having “dominated females around you for your purposes…”
    First, Sarah laughs at Abraham when he tells her he has been promised a son.
    Then she denies it and claims she didn’t laugh.
    Then she shoves him into her servant’s tent to make a baby for her because she still does not believe it. (Imagine how long she must have nagged before Abe finally went.)
    Then she nags him about how that baby’s mother is getting on her nerves, and demands he get rid of him and her.

    Wess, I don’t think God ever said any such thing to Abraham as what you imagine.

    What He likely said was “Abe, I know that Sarah has been getting on your nerves lately. I understand. I can see how much of your hair you have pulled out. As a matter of fact, you remind me somewhat of this guy I know named ‘Job.’ One of these days I’ll tell you his story, and then maybe you won’t feel so sorry for yourself. Anyway, about this matter of Hagar and her boy, though, Sarah happens, despite herself, to be giving you what amounts to good advice (even though it is not being given for a very good reason), and just this once you should listen to her.”

    I understand that your version of the conversation is likely to entertain those who are always looking over their shoulders for prowling feminists, but I can say with some confidence that it isn’t as accurate as mine is.

    Anyway, perhaps because of this distraction I missed something, but there must be some way in which “you shall not want” will be fulfilled such that it does not require us to give a heavy sigh of resignation and disappointment, since “those who believe in Him will never be disappointed.”

    Something is indeed missing from our lives. The resolution of the problem does not entail that we learn to not want the missing thing. Surely it must entail our someday receiving it. We are led to believe that the opening of the eyes of the blind is a message for us. Thus, to apply the metaphor, we are now blind to realities that we will be given the power to see in the future. Just as we cannot now naturally see the infrared or ultraviolet light, but can acquire that ability through mechanical means, so there are other kinds of ‘light’ that we cannot presently see—for example, the River of the Water of Life. Until one has seen this, all conjecture about what is missing is just words. Once this becomes seen, the speculations on this page will be replaced with sight, and words will thereafter not be needed to explain anything.

    “a true and complete and wonderful fulfilment waiting for us a few steps down the road” Yes. Absolutely. True.

    But like I said, your thoughts became a little hard for me to follow after you had frowned at Abraham in attempting to flatter his nagging wife.

    I’m sorry, excuse me. What were we discussing? Oh, yes, … a back pain, yes. Yes, that’s just what it is. For now.

    Wess, you have much of value to say here. And much of this takes a considerable degree of courage in our “nationalistic” society. We Americans are especially at a disadvantage here precisely because of the extent to which the founding of this country was influenced for the good by Christians. For many years it was measureably more noble and just than the vulgar crowds that clutched at it or sought to imitate it. We begin to see thi limits of this way of thinking. As time goes by, no doubt God will make more clear the vast distinction between the best that this world has to offer, and the most minimal part of heaven. Seeing the contrast—and the decision it requires—will become easier for some. For others, there will never be such a realization. This will make our task all the harder as time goes by. Surely the best that is America will be brought to heaven and help shape its character. This is biblical. So there is no reason to reject or denounce everything. But there are those who cannot understand any distinction, of any kind. I will speak in parables because it is hazardous to speak plainly. To the righteous man, it comes down to all or nothing. To the wicked man, it comes down to all or nothing. The differences are in the yardsticks that are used for measuring, and what they measure.

    As for the longing for the missing pieces, the following is how much of the longing that is satisfied and erased in the present by our covenant relationship with God: It is soothing that we have been told, and we believe, that there is a sure satisfaction that will be given to us. It’s easier, less of a burden, less of a nightmare, to accept a deep inner lack when it is known for certain that it will eventually be satisfied. The satisfaction that comes from knowing there is an answer in our future is not at all to be compared with the eventual fulfilment itself, but it takes the edge off of it and makes it bearable.

    I believe that a part of what is needed for a full appreciation of its eventual delivery, (and therefore the reason for the need to be kept waiting for a little while longer), is for us to become simultaneously more keenly aware of the colossal magnitude of this lack, while also more patiently secure in the conviction of its certain and satisfying fulfilment. (Because it’s gonna hit us like the proverbial ton of bricks when it finally arrives, we’re going to need to have both feet firmly planted and be ready for it.)

    And the joy will be all the greater because the fulfilment was earned by our patient suffering and righteous deeds.

    (No, this doesn’t contradict scripture. Salvation is a free gift. Rewards, on the other hand, are earned.)

    Thus, one thing that may sometimes be the source of what is ‘out of alignment’ is our understanding of the relationship between behavior and future rewards. When was the last time you heard a Christian mention an expectation of reward and its relationship to behavior? Perhaps this is why we so seldom make any special effort, for example, to love our enemies. We’ve lost sight of the relationship between service and reward and of the consequent expectation that comes from this understanding. This is the answer to the common question, “Oh, what’s the use?”:

    BECAUSE THERE ARE FANTASTIC PRIZES!

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