So I know you’re familiar with this phenomenon – you start to think about something, and suddenly, that idea is everywhere – on bus ads, in emails, on the radio. Well, I had one of those “everywhere” moments when I opened my email today and saw this excerpt from John Eldredge’s book The Sacred Romance. (If you haven’t read Eldredge, you should, immediately.)
The whole life of the good Christian,” said Augustine, “is a holy longing.” Sadly, many of us have been led to feel that somehow we ought to want less, not more. We have this sense that we should atone for our longings, apologize that we feel such deep desire. Shouldn’t we be more content? Perhaps, but contentment is never wanting less; that’s the easy way out. Anybody can look holy if she’s killed her heart; the real test is to have your heart burning within you and have the patience to enjoy what there is now to enjoy, while waiting with eager anticipation for the feast to come. In Paul’s words, we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” (Rom. 8:23). Contentment can only happen as we increase desire, let it run itself out toward its fulfillment, and carry us along with it. And so George Herbert prayed,
Immortal Heat, O let thy greater flame
Attract the lesser to it: let those fires,
Which shall consume the world, first make it tame;
And kindle in our hearts such true desires,
As may consume our lusts, and make thee way.
Then shall our hearts pant thee. (Love)
There may be times when all we have to go on is a sense of duty. But in the end, if that is all we have, we will never make it. Our Hero is the example. He’s run on before us and he’s made it; he’s there now. His life assures us it can be done, but only through passionate desire for the joy set before us.
“Contentment can only happen as we increase desire” – that seems to sum up what I’ve been trying to say in the my last two posts on contentment and satisfaction. It seems we are asked to be content with a constant state of longing and desire, and while that sounds painful and challenging, I wouldn’t want to be stagnant or bored. It’s better to long for the promises we’ve been given than to settle for the life we see with our limited vision.
I see this life as a journey toward a beautiful place where all the best things we can imagine are even better than we could dream. It’s the journey described in those quest tales, in The Lord of the Rings, in the writing of the Beats. The way of the journey is difficult, and in some ways the way of the journey is the point – to sculpt us and purify us – but if the journey is all there is, then we are traveling without purpose and might as well stop now. But if the journey ends in what has been promised to us, well, then, I will keep walking . . . one step in front of the other.