Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Disquieting Questions

"As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" Psalm 42:1-2

"There is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire. Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality . . . Augustine says: ‘You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest." -Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

The lonely girl sits in the bay window with her books. New to the neighborhood, she wonders if she will ever fit in and find real friends instead of those in her imagination. Looking out the window to the park across the street she notices two girls riding bikes and laughing together. The sight makes her feel even more lonely.

The young adult sits quietly while the group she is with engages in lively talk at the restaurant. Normally quite talkative, something about this particular group or occasion leaves her in silence, feeling like she doesn't quite fit in.

The married woman with the large family enjoys a peaceful Sunday afternoon, with everyone in the family engaged in some type of activity nearby. It should be a moment of peaceful joy, but instead, an uneasy ache fills her soul, something that feels a bit like the loneliness that has followed her all of her life.

These three different scenarios are all about the same person...me. God has blessed me with a wonderful life, yet there is always an emptiness that haunts me, a longing for something that can never be fulfilled. What causes this heavy longing? And am I the only person who has ever felt this way, or is it a natural consequence of being human?

If Rolheiser is right, then what I am longing for is God and the much quoted words of St. Augustine tells me that my restless heart will never be satisfied until it rests in God. So I pursue Him with all my might, and I know that as much as I am following Him, He is pursuing me even more. God longs for me and wants to be near me. So, why is it that I can't feel Him longing for me? Or do I feel it, but I just don't recognize it? And, what will it feel like if He ever catches me? If spirituality is truly about what I do with my restlessness, then what can I do to become more spiritual, more connected to God here and now?
Is it possible to answer these questions on this side of heaven ?

Dear God, fill my soul with your love. Don't leave me in this emptiness of disquiet and unrest. Let's stop chasing each other and just settle peacefully into one another's arms. Amen.


  1. I am trying to read this book again right now! I recognized the words...I am going to send you a video with a "visual" that might give you an idea of what He's doing when you can't feel Him or recognize it!

  2. Our Lady said to St Bernadette, "I cannot promise you happiness in this world, only in the next."

    Maybe the more we long for God, the more aware we become that this promise is true for each of us.

    I have spent so much energy looking for fulfillment in the wrong places, literally exhausted my being. I am beginning to see,that only His joy truly suffices and it makes all other things into frauds, if they claim to be more than they were intended to be.

  3. Sometimes the silence in the Journey is deafening; I think that is where our longing lies, in that deafening silence as we listen for God.

  4. You are describing the sum of my teenage years. I wasn't a misfit but I was lonely and searching for something. I think it was because of this that I considered the church as a vocation seeing it as an opportunity to pursue the divine. Now I am in my 40s and I have found a home in a great religious community and my loneliness seems to have disappeared and I can say with honesty that I am really happy. I think that sometimes the feeling of loneliness can be a call, an opportunity to see God from a new perspective.

  5. Thank you all for these insightful comments.

    Shadowlands, you are so right, we aren't meant to be happy in this lifetime. I think I could settle with that, if I could simply find some peace.

    Yes, KAM, silence is hard to take sometimes, isn't it? Too often, I try to drown that silence out with noise and activity. I think that the deafening silence, though, is where God really must want me.

    Fr. Jon, Your words give me so much hope! And a lot to ponder-I wonder what kind of perspective God could be calling me to see Him from?

  6. "I think I could settle with that, if I could simply find some peace."

    Now that is available, on earth, but it is not the world's peace.

    John 14:27
    "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid."

  7. Anne,
    I feel this longing constantly, it is continuous. Even when He sends me spiritual consolations, the yearning continues. It is a strong, strong call that never stops and sometimes it's brutally painful. I see how blessed I am, I laugh, I am absolutely sure of God's love, I feel His finger on my soul and His Presence and yet - the deep internal cry for more of Him never stops. It is a hunger that can't really be satisfied here except in bits and pieces. When we are in the Beatific Vision we will be truly happy.
    I call the yearning a "stretching out process". It's when He is stretching out our souls to receive more of Him and it can last a long time. What he stretches He will fill, I have no doubt about that.

  8. "In as much as you seek Him, you will find Him" ~ Teresa of Jesus~
    Sometimes, I think we convince ourselves that we are seeking GOD and seeking "His seeking of us", when in reality, what we are REALLY seeking is an absence of the lonely feeling or that yearning...we are seeking to FEEL DIFFERENTLY which isn't really the same as seeking God...does that make sense? I also believe (as I have wrestled with this same thing in life) that part of that deep deep loneliness and yearning is similar to that which Jesus felt in the Garden...He saw all of those souls, who, despite His Sacrifice, would NOT be saved...and somehow, I think this creeps into OUR BEING...when we are His followers...not that we are judging others' Salvation...but that we see a world around us so very very LOST...and some of those lost souls are closely related to us...relatives...friends...co-workers, etc...So, that lonely feeling and that yearning is a feeling of our own helplessness...the fact that we can't DO anything to bring the world out of darkness on our own...we want SO MUCH to cry out "Don't you GET it? Don't you SEE??? Don't you want to LOVE HIM TOO?????" For someone like you Anne, who is SO deeply profound, spiritual, and poetic...I think perhaps your soul ACHES because in the end...all will NOT be saved. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts... and I pray that you come to REST IN HIM.

  9. Shadowlands, Mary and Judy, thank you all so much for your loving and encouraging comments! You help me to feel so much less alone. I am glad to know that I am not the only one to feel this way and thank you for sharing your experiences with me.