Scripture reading for today:

Isaiah 12:2-6, Amos 9:8-15, Luke 1:57-66

Acquainted with Longing

We are people well acquainted with longing.

Too many of us have waited for medical test results to come back with good news – we have a deep longing for health.
Too many of us have waited for that relationship to find it’s way back to the light- we have a deep longing for reconciliation.
Too many of us have watched the first puck drop of the season – we have a deep longing for a Leaf Cup victory!

What does longing feel like to you?

If you’re like me, when I really long for something, I feel weak and out of control; I am at the mercy of something wholly “other.” Acutely aware of my inability to fix and solve, the wanting and waiting are like heavy pits lodged in my gut. I want resolution and harmony, not the dissonance of unmet expectations.

I also feel completely alive.

Have you ever considered that longing is actually a mercy and not something to be appeased or abated?  Could there be a gift in the waiting (albeit painful) that we should cozy up to, instead of fleeing from as if it were a nuisance? Could we really ever love something without longing?

Longing focuses our desire.
Longing clarifies our meaning.
Longing nurtures our hope.

In our readings today, we see that seasons of waiting with longing create an atmosphere of hope and a vision for abundance. The surrendered posture of the prophets, and of Elizabeth & Zechariah, remind me to find meaning in the soul-aches that lie within me.

The Canadian Church is one of those places where I need desire and meaning and hope.

I need it because I lost it – at least for a while.

Perhaps you have felt this too. You’ve given some of your best years in service to the Church but now you’re disillusioned, angry, confused, and so very sad. You feel culpable, in some ways, to contributing to things you now have such dissonance with. You’ve given yourself permission to doubt, and doubt has taken up residence with no signs of leaving. What once felt so natural feels like an ill-fitting coat that is choking the life out of you. There are many of us around. Once at the seeming “centre”, and now on the margins. And while we wouldn’t trade our present place for the former, we none-the-less feel like we’re waiting for something.

And yet, in all of this, there are still embers of longing flickering away for something more.

Maybe, you’re longing for the type of abundance the prophet Amos speaks of. “When the one who plows will meet the one who reaps.” (9:13). Imagine communities so rooted in God, Love would thoroughly overwhelm us all – the harvest season will not come to an end.

In your heart’s eye, you can envision a more inclusive community. The dividing lines are dissolving because the dividing lines in our hearts have been dissolved by God. Your desire is for all people to feel like they belong even if they see the world of belief very different than you. Your heart is awakened because of your hope that more and more people will experience the truest Reality – they are loved beyond their wildest imaginations. It’s a vision that echoes the Apostle’s words of, “a new humanity!” (Ephesians 2:15)

Here are some important questions to ask ourselves:

-Where are you lacking desire, and how can active longing bring renewed focus to you?
-Where are you desperate for meaning, and how can sinking your teeth into true longing clarify things for you?
-What is leaving you feeling hopeless, and how does feeling the ache of longing nurture a new hope in you?

These are dangerous questions – because lying in a bed of longing can feel as though we’re coming out of our skin – we’re invited to shed control and strength, and left vulnerable and weak. As we consider our deepest desires and hope for the Church, we discover that we are at the end of our capacity to move and shake things of any real consequence. The grip we’re accustomed to must be loosened, and our open palms are only able to hold our longing. Yes, we are waiting AND longing in the margins.

The grip we’re accustomed to must be loosened, and our open palms are only able to hold our longing. Click To Tweet

But, this longing has the capacity to bring us back from the brink because it is the birthplace of desire, meaning and hope. Longing is not a shadow to cast off, it is the hidden light that ignites passion rooted in faith.

The Advent season honours our ache in longing and our passion for waiting. It is not the shiny, happy, tie-it-up-with-a-bow, kind of season, but one where doubt and regret mingle with hope and desire. It’s important to get in touch with our longing and to feel it deeply. This great surrender is the pathway to experience the words of Isaiah,

“You are my Deliverer…with joy I will draw water from the well of salvation.”(12:3)

Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you are enjoying the reader, sign up to receive the readings in your inbox each day here: SIGN UP And please share this reflection with your friends and family who might also enjoy it.

photo credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia