O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you – Isaiah 33:2

longing

Longing! We’ve all felt it and it can be described in many ways: a mysterious yearning for something more; a nostalgia for joys and longings past yet pointing to something ahead; even pangs of joy. Perhaps one of the best definitions is an underlying sense of displacement or alienation from that which we desire and of which we are vaguely aware (Carnell).

For some the feeling is stimulated by going back to the old family home or a special place – even a ‘magic carpet’.

But what happens when the magic carpet is no longer there?  Even worse, what is the feeling if the home has been burnt down? Displacement. You become a displaced person. It is awful. We feel that there is something terribly wrong.

Classical Christian writers (Augustine and Pascal in particular) indicate that such longing points to a ‘God-shaped’ hole in us that can only be satisfied by God Himself. And we should use the longing inside us – and point others to do likewise – to move us closer to God and to remind us that we are aliens and strangers here, that our real home is with our Father in heaven. Only then will our longings be completely fulfilled. And then there will be great joy in His presence that will go on and on as we go ‘further up and further in’ (Lewis).

The following scriptures highlight this reality:

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25 NIV)

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16 NIV)

Until we reach that city, enjoy the pleasures that God allows including that special pang of joy. Go fly your magic carpets, dream of The Well at the World’s End or Narnia if you will. As Corbin Scott Carnell writes in Bright Shadow of Reality – Spiritual Longing in CSLewis, these are all splashes of Godlight in the dark wood of our life. And Carnell also writes in the conclusion of that book:
It points to a Great Dance, yes, and to the Lord of the Dance, but it also provides the first halting steps of that exultant movement and our feet can begin now to learn its figures and its rhythm.

O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress (Isaiah 33:2 NIV).

Lachlan Dunjey Feb 2003 (rev 2012).