The Heart’s Longing

One of my friends often babysits for her five-year-old granddaughter, whom I’ll call Emma. Recently the three of us spent the day shopping. Emma has an amazing vocabulary for a child her age and she often surprises me with her maturity and awareness. She’s also generous, loving, and kind. So yeah, I’m her fan. During one of our stops the other day, we visited a gift boutique where my friend was picking something up for an anniversary present. Emma knows this store well and she took me by the hand to show me something. On a rather high shelf was a large geode, opened to show gorgeous purple crystals inside the rock. “Isn’t it pretty?” she said breathlessly. “It surely is, Emma,” I replied. Standing on tiptoe, she whispered, “I long for it.”

“I long for it.” Who can expect to hear that from such a small child? Or from anyone, really? And yet, Emma clearly knew what she was saying and I loved her for it. It’s a word you hear more in poetry than in casual conversation, and yet it carries a depth of meaning that we instantly recognize. It comes from a German root meaning “to reach or extend.” Longing for something is a desire so deep and so strong that it almost pulls you out of yourself. Like Emma standing up on her tiptoes as she gazed at that beautiful crystal-filled rock. She longed for it. She was pulled toward it with that longing. And while her unabashed desire for the pretty geode was innocent and cute, the world is full of longings that aren’t.  

What do you long for? What are the desires of your heart that pull you up and out of yourself? They may be things you’ve never admitted to anyone else, or even to yourself. They may be admirable, like peace in your family, or health for a loved one. Or they may be more self-serving like wealth, or power. Human longing runs the gamut from heaven to hell. Our lives are defined by those longings. Our souls are revealed by them. For Christians, it is the longing for Christ that leads us to follow Him. We’ve come to know that only Jesus can satisfy our deepest yearnings. The world and all its charms and attractions may dazzle us briefly, but if we’re honest with ourselves we know, as St. Augustine wrote, that our hearts can only find peace when they rest in Him.  

In Scripture, we often read of that deep longing for God expressed in terms of hunger and thirst. All of us know what it feels like to be really hungry and thirsty. When you are, nothing else is on your mind. Everything in your being wants only to eat and to drink. That’s the image God gives us of our deep longing to be united with Him. Do you hunger and thirst for the Lord? Do you feed your soul with His Word and quench your thirst with prayer? Or do you eat the junk food of the world instead? Do you drink in the praise and admiration of others when what your heart was created for is the living water of God’s love? We were made to love and to be loved. What a wonderful gift to know that love is our purpose and our calling. Through Christ, we live out this purpose and calling in the vocation of our lives. Love is the gift of a heart longing for the Lord.  

And guess what Emma is getting for Christmas…

As a deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for You, O God.”

            —-Psalm 42:1


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Brian H. Gill
    Jul 06, 2017 @ 02:58:30

    🙂 Emma sounds like a gem. Or geode, maybe. Good points – particularly the idea that longing isn’t bad by itself. And can be good.


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