The Goodness of Longing

The Goodness of Longing

by Claire Huchthausen

It was a dolorous day in the middle of the pandemic, and I was lying on the floor with an ache in my heart. I was listening to that fine song, Satisfied from the hit musical Hamilton. Angelica sings, “I’ve never been satisfied. … I know I will never be satisfied.” And I thought, how hopeless that would be, to face the rest of your life and say, I will never be satisfied.

I think every human being has an ache in their heart. We usually try to ignore or dull that ache. During the buildup to Christmas in America, dulling the ache might look like too much shopping (sales!) or too many Christmas cookies (snickerdoodles!). These traditions are not bad in themselves, yet so often when I try to dull the ache, I end up glutted but not sated. We have a longing that runs deeper than dopamine.

Even when we are happy, we are longing. C.S. Lewis puts it well in his book Till We Have Faces, a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. Psyche tells her sister, “It was when I was happiest that I longed the most. … because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it.”1

We have a longing that runs deeper than dopamine.

– Claire Huchthausen

Why? Why do we long so much, even when it looks like we should want nothing? This is far from a new question. Seventeenth-century philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal wrote in his life’s work Pensées,

“What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”2

Our longing is for God. That day when I lay on the floor listening to Hamilton, this verse floated through my head: I will be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15b.)

Over and over, the Bible affirms that the LORD will satisfy us. (For just a few examples, see Psalm 22:26, Psalm 132:15, Joel 2:19.) Perhaps the best-known is Psalm 23:1. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This verse is in the future tense. It is so hard to accept the future tense! We do want, and we will be wanting and waiting for a while longer. My instinct is to dull my aches as quickly as possible, because I daily forget that there are no quick fixes in an eternal kingdom. But “I shall not want” is also a promise. As Christians, we have this hope. We WILL be satisfied!

It is the first week of Advent, and this week we light the candle of hope. We embrace our deep longing—let ourselves feel it, rather than trying to dull it—and look forward to the second coming of Christ, when that longing will be satisfied once and for all.

For me, embracing my deep longing might look like foregoing an extra Christmas cookie (not to villainize Christmas cookies, but to view this as a tiny version of the spiritual practice of fasting), however, mostly it looks like bringing my heart to God in prayer when I feel the urge to dull the ache. Because I so often forget to remember, I keep this prayer written above my desk:

“We willingly carry this ache, O Lord.

We carry it, O Father, to you.”3

Our longing is not a bad thing. It is meant to draw us closer to the God who will satisfy that longing, and that is the best thing in the world. 


Claire Huchthausen is a first year student at the University of Virginia studying English and Physics.

This article is part of the Duke Crux X UVA Bearings 2021 Advent Series, a collaborative series between the two Augustine Collective organizations. Check back regularly at dukecrux.org and bearingsuva.org for more writing this Advent season.


Notes

  1. C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (HarperCollins, 2017), Chapter VII. Hoopla Digital.
  2. Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensées (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1958; Project Gutenberg, 2006), Section VII, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm
  3. Douglas Kaine McKelvey, “A Liturgy for Missing Someone.” Every Moment Holy, Rabbit Room Press 2017 www.EveryMomentHoly.com

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