While studying today, I was struck by the presence of a familiar anxiety. As I was reading the scripture and studying it’s flow, I felt myself reaching for something just beyond my grasp. The feelings were familiar, but today was the first time my thoughts turned toward the nature of the longing. What is it I’m so desperate to find?
For much of my ministry-life I have been reaching for something significant. I want to know more. Sometimes what I see does not satisfy. So I look closer. I dig deeper. I study scripture always looking for more. Trying to find what I must be missing. It’s interesting to me that I have unconsciously assumed something was missing. Until now, I have never questioned the desire, neither was I even aware of its hidden drive. But I have been functioning as if something was missing; something significant.
The desire could easily, and often did, slide towards pleasure. Sometimes, deceiving myself, I would look to be entertained to satisfy the deep need. A good movie, a nice dinner, a glass of wine, the good life will make me feel better. But pleasure does not satisfy. I’ve learned that from experience. It has been settled deep within me that the significance is, somehow, in the Lord.
The preacher of Ecclesiastes calls it eternity, and says that the Lord has placed it in the heart of man. Abraham was looking for a better country than the one in which he sojourned. The disciple seemed to be longing for the kingdom. And then, of course, there is heaven. Is it heaven I have been reaching for?
That answer seems too simplistic. It does not satisfy either. It has to be Jesus I’m longing for. As Terence O’Neil said, “heaven ain’t heaven if Jesus is not there.” Yes, it must be Jesus. But even that is not conceivable without context. I don’t believe me and Jesus in a vacuum is what God intended for us.
What God intends for us? Hmmm… I think that’s it. What I have been longing for is existence as God intended. To be fully human as God designed. To live, love, work, in the presence of the Lord and all the glory and well being that comes from His presence. That’s what eternity brings. That’s what the kingdom offers.
As I study, I’m reaching to know and experience that in measure. To settle for the earthly, mundane, and worldly wisdom of men has not been sufficient. Neither has a trite surface reading of scripture, designed to appease me temporarily. It has only left me longing for more. Highlighting how much has been missing.
The closest I can come to that now, however, is meaning found in God’s word. Correction: the closest I can come to that now is worship. But my worship must be true, and the only way I can worship God in spirit and in truth, is by knowing Him as He has made Himself known in His word. And so I must reach for the meaning I find in scripture. I lean in, and grasp for the significance that results in an appropriate response to what I find. Sometimes what I find satisfies. And I worship.