Tuesday, April 7, 2009

on longing

This Sunday, we sang these lines from Tim Hughes' powerful song, "Consuming Fire." "There must be more than this. Oh breath of God, come breathe within. There must be more than this. Spirit of God, we wait for You." The words were an accurate expression of my heart's state that morning; I'd spent the past few days longing for more of God, feeling an emptiness, wanting more from my relationship with Him. So I was glad to have the chance to voice my heart's condition to my Father. Yet I also wondered how He would choose to answer . . . . what I should expect as a response.

David expresses similar longings in the Psalms: "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." David's hunger to know "the living God" suggests a need to experience God, not just as a distant deity, but as a divine Father whose presence can be known in his here-and-now existence.

So I know it's alright to voice such a desire. Yet how will God answer my cry? Should I anticipate that He'll respond by granting me a renewed sense of His presence? Will He relieve my longing by refreshing my awareness of Him? That is what the song's lyrics say: "Come like a rushing wind. Clothe us with power from on high. Fill us anew we pray. Fill us anew we pray."

It is true for me that when I long for His presence but can't seem to recognize it, I'm troubled . . . I wonder if there is something amiss in my life, or if I'm flawed in some way.

Some would say God always says "yes" to such a request. That when He doesn't, we should examine the condition of our hearts. That a lack of His presence signifies sin in our lives.

What, then, of Paul's exhortation to "fix our eyes not on what is seen [and experienced on earth], but on what is unseen"? What of his reminder that "what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal"? Of his claim that, although we can look forward to our "eternal house in heaven," for now we will "groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling"?

Maybe God had a purpose in creating me with this longing for a God who is alive in my present, earthly existence. His intention is not only to compel me to seek Him in the here-and-now, but also to heighten my anticipation of what I will taste and see in heaven. Maybe I shouldn't expect Him to quench my thirst, to satiate my longing. Maybe He intends for me to take hope in Paul's statement that "while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened," remembering that "it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us he Spirit as a despoit, guaranteeing what is to come."

So, while it's true that "there must be more than this," perhaps God doesn't intend for me to know His presence fully until heaven.