In Search of Better Stories

Longing for God vs. Experiencing God

Longing is that deep inner restlessness that sees all there is and realizes there must be more. I have bucket loads of it.

Good for you, says C.S. Lewis. Listen to that longing! It means you were made for another world. You on the right track, says James K. A. Smith. The feeling of “Not at-homeness” is a postcard from God. Let longing lead you to God.

Isn’t that a fair description of faith? Faith: the blunt refusal to ignore the longing?
Sure. Sounds good to me
What about the faith that grasps Immanuel — “God with us”?
The faith that seems to cast aside the faint rays of longing to bask in the direct sunlight of a God who is actually present available, and helpful.
When longing is the center of a person’s faith, then an active, miracle-working, prayer-answering, action-oriented God is not.
One cancels out the other, right?
Or can it be both?
Some days the dull shades of longing fill out the canvas of one’s belief system, and other days the vibrant colours of a God undeniably experienced explode in a cacophony of brilliant colours.
I suppose this must be the case.

For me, now 47 years on this earth, my faith remains almost entirely fixed in the grey and dark hues of longing.
Those that experience God in such vibrant colours make me nervous. The slogan chanting “Praise Goder’s” make me cringe sometimes. Those that continuously raise their hands skyward to this miracle-working God that seems everywhere present fill me with skepticism. I can’t relate.

But at the same time, I hope they are right. I want the God story to be true! It’s a better story. The more the chasm grows between what I hope to be true about God and my faltering experience of him, the more my longing seems to increase. For some, I imagine the opposite is true.

Controversial Christian music artist and tortured soul Rich Mullin’s I think, was someone like me. Sadly, a car accident drastically shortened his time on earth, but I hear the deep longing in almost all the songs he left behind.

From the perspective of the Children of Israel enslaved in Egypt for 400 years before God shows up to deliver them, Rich belts out a courageous yet fragile expectation:

My deliverer is comin’, my deliverer is standin’ by
I will never doubt His promise.
Though I doubt my heart, I doubt my eyes.

He will never break his promise.
Though the stars should break faith with the sky.
My deliverer is comin’, my deliverer is standin’ by.

And so it is for me, even if he never shows up.

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