We like to believe that for every craving, there is a satisfying agent. For every want, there is fulfillment. For every ache, there is a remedy. For every heart longing, a requiting love.
When I crave something sweet, a Reese Peanut Butter Cup is exactly the cure. And if I can’t have that, I melt peanut butter and chocolate chips together in the microwave. When my brain is fried, I need Netflix. When I have the kind of stress that makes my heart pound, I want a glass of red wine. When I have bone-deep exhaustion, I need a nap. When I long for connection, I want coffee-time with friends. When I need a creative re-boot, I orchestrate a time of solitude. When my thoughts are jumbled, I need journal time. When my feelings can’t escape my body, I sit at the piano and allow music to say what words cannot. When I have pent up frustration, I head out for a power walk. When my brain is relentlessly busy, I am quieted with list-making and meditation.
I wanted academic success to fulfill me, and though I am proud of what I’ve achieved and have grown in the learning, it has not quenched the desire for more. I believed a life partner would fulfill a deep soul-longing, and while my husband is an incredible gift to me, he cannot fully satisfy the ache to be truly known. Though I know better, I really felt like renovating our home would feel good. And it did, in a way. I value aesthetics and I love our physical space, but that’s as deep as it goes.
We have ways to meet our needs. Or at, at least, to quiet them. To numb them. Temporarily. Momentarily. Detrimentally?
The distasteful news is that no one and no thing will permanently satisfy your deepest need. There is no once-and-for-all miracle.
Not alone time. Not friend time. Not coffee. Not a dog. Not a different job. Not a new hair colour. Not a new sofa. Not having a baby. Not meeting the right person. Not a different church. Not your children. Not your husband. Not chocolate. Not wine. Not Netflix. Not size 6 pants. Not a hot bath. Not Advil. Not a different partner. Not more success. Not a new pet. Not food. Not no more food.
No one. No thing.
C.S. Lewis says that “we live with a God-shaped hole in our hearts.”
Created things and constructs are meant to be enjoyed; meant to add to the human experience. But we are not only physical beings. So physical things do not quench the eternal thirst. They cannot satiate the divine hunger. They do not fill the hole.
We become quickly dissatisfied. We leak. We need constant infilling.
The only satisfying agent for every soul hunger, every unquenchable thirst, and every longing is the divine. For some of us, that means Jesus. For some of us, that means the Divine. Or the Universe. Or another name for God. Regardless of the name you use, humans straddle two worlds. With one foot in our concrete, physical experience, and the other firmly floating in the realm of spirit, we live in limbo. We see as through a glass darkly. We are in the now and the not yet. The fulfilled and the unfulfilled. Though we experience moments of connection, when heaven touches earth, we cannot arrive and set up camp at fullness. Regrettably.
Perhaps the answer is to simply notice and embrace the empty feeling when it arises; to live with great love and empathy for ourselves and for others, awake to the ache that is intrinsic to all of humanity. Instead of attempting to outrun the void or stuff it to full with lesser things, why not cherish and protect this space that is intended only for divine connection.
In the interim, I don’t believe we are meant to merely endure this world. We don’t have to scrape by, longing only for heaven. I am fully aware that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate isn’t the fullness of heaven, but for me, it’s a taste of heaven. I know that Netflix cannot compare with true inner peace, but I certainly embrace it as a gift in this moment. My husband is an imperfect human who is mostly wonderful and is sometimes a jerk, but we love whole-heartedly, even if imperfectly. For me, he is a taste of the fullness.
We are meant to live wholly in the now and the not yet. We are made to enjoy God and enjoy others. The place of longing is by design.
Though I, like you, live with the God-shaped hole, I am simultaneously filled with great joy and peace along the journey. We may not live in the perpetual fullness, but we can embrace every small, joy-inducing measure with gratitude along the way. And this, my friends, is divine.
Much love to all of you.