My sons came by the other day; 21 and 25 and always looking for the next best thing. Always searching for that thing that reminds them they’re alive, that gives notion there’s more than wake and sleep. The younger one just made a promotion at work, just made lead. He tells me of wishing he was still on the crew, still a working man. This supervisory stuff is for the birds; too much paperwork, too many protocols. But, he says, that’s no way to get anywhere, he’ll get no where that way.
Where do you want to go, I ask him. Where is it you want to be?
He looks at me without a word, eyes blinking blank as if surely I’m joking. Surely I know.
I do. I know. I wish I would have told them.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
John 7:38 NIV
It was the light that drew me in, the splay of blue and gold spilling from the doorway and falling across the floor. It was those doors always open even in the dark of night when darker dreams kept me pacing. It was those doors open wide as arms welcoming, urging me in.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It started with the mother, and with the father. The longing. The longing was because of the leaving. The empty was for the leaving and what it left behind.
So I filled it with daydreams of what could be, would be. I dreamed endless dreams of who I really was. I nearly had myself convinced, nearly believed them. In the daylight. But at the end of the day only I remained, only me and the way it really was. And the empty.
Then it was the sickness, and the difference. I couldn’t understand the people, couldn’t relate to the lives around me. I didn’t know how to be as they were. I couldn’t be no matter how hard I tried. The longing grew. My empty was for the difference and what it made of me.
So I clung to the people, to the friends. I’d teach myself. I’d make myself in to who they where. But I was a chameleon with no clear color. At the end of the day only I remained, only the me I really was and the empty inside.
Then it was where I was. I was on the wrong side of the tracks. I needed to be on that greener side, so I moved. I packed my Self and my things and started over. And over. And over again. Yet at the end of the road there I was, right where I’d always been, with my empty growing.
So I filled my time with thrills as grand as I could find; thrills that displaced the longing. I sailed high the sky, swiftly raced slow winding roads, jumped from branches and bridges low. I rode the highs and lows and loop-de-loops of the carnival coaster over and over again. But when the dust and my pulse settled there I was, still holding on to empty.
Then it was because I was alone. The longing was for a mate, a family. The empty would go when I had someone to fix me, to fill me. A family would complete me. It was who I was meant to be.
So I found a man and had a family. I filled the role of wife and mother and made meals and kept house. At the end of those days I was still alone aching with my empty.
Then I needed purpose so I went to school. I’d have a career. I’d be Somebody.
Then it was what we needed, what we didn’t have. We bought a house.
Then it was a different man. I still hadn’t found the right one. I started over.
Then it was this or that, and them, then those over there. It was always something. Someone. It was always a filling up I just hadn’t found. No matter what I did or where I was or what I had, empty clung closer than my shadow.
So I found any friend, any man, any thrill I could. Then I found the drink and found how not to care.
Except I did.
And really, the empty was eating me alive.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:22-23 NIV
And I see it all around me. Yes you can see it- the longing. And you can hear it, too- the groaning. The whole earth groans. The whole earth groans from an insatiable longing.
It’s in the wanting of more, always more. It’s in the more that’s never enough. It’s in the empty we remember at the end of the day when only We remain
The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.
Zecharia 10:2 NIV
It’s in the playground where the children taunt and tease to find their own ground. It’s in high school halls where the young compare and criticize for jeans and shoes and hair and cars. It’s in the bravado of boys and the slink and sway of girls. It’s in the fast ride on a slow road and the high jump from a low tower. It’s in the career and the bank account and just how high they’ll go. It’s in the women looking for a mate and the men looking for a release. It’s in the car in the drive and the toys in the garage. It’s in the commercials too loud and the ads too bright. It’s in the beer that turns to booze, the smoke that turns to snort. It’s in the red light taking too long and the one in our way. It’s in that and them over there but never right here in us. It’s in the craving; the craving for more, always more. It’s in the longing to be filled- now- a now that never comes nor never ends. It’s an endless yearning, an endless deprivation.
I want to scream so loud
it’s all an exercise
I want to shake my boys, save them the searching, tell them.
I want to tell you.
There was that light and there were those doors drawing me in. But I didn’t want to go. I closed my eyes and walked on past. I had no intention of meeting with a God who’d forsaken me. I had no desire to search for a God who’d never existed at all.
So I paced.
I paced the halls of the rehab where my own Self couldn’t stand her own skin. Without my diversion I had no idea how to handle myself, what to do, how to fill that gnawing empty in my gut. My heart hurt so deeply I could have poked the entire world inside. I picked up books but couldn’t read the words. I turned on the TV but couldn’t follow the story. I looked to my fellow addicts but had no room for their pain too.
So I paced.
And there were those doors at the end of the hall, the doors open wide where light fell forth so I wandered in.
I wandered in to that room that was no mere room but a chapel waiting warm.
I went to those doors wide as arms outstretched.
I fell in to that light blinding bright and consuming.
And in that room that held His heart He held me.
And so I began my breaking. I began crawling right out of my own skin, and in to His.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8 NIV
It was then I found my first taste of His filling up.
It was then God revealed
He alone is the longing.
He alone is the filling up.
And in that place of God I found my groans subsiding. In that place of God’s embrace I found an ease to my hunger and a quenching of my thirst. In that place that is God I found a filling up that is satisfying. Abundant. Unending.
It was then empty left me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5 NIV
And so I want to tell you.
And I want to tell them. I want to tell my boys there is nothing they will ever find, or have, or do that will make the longing go away, or the searching cease, or the big empty to be filled. There is nothing to still their ache or quiet their groans. Nothing at all outside the embrace of the God who created them; who longs for them. The God who waits arms wide and welcoming, urging them in.