by Megan M. Elmendorf Hopson—
I wonder when it is that we begin to feel a certain longing within us. When do we recognize there is a part of us missing and that we are not whole? Elementary school, middle school, high school, college, beyond? Artists of brush, pen, and clay have long sought to capture the essence of this longing. Societies across the globe have unconsciously discovered this profound longing and have tried to quench it with superficial things: looks, wealth, fame, etc. Few seem to understand that this hunger is a part of why we were born on this earth, why we wake up every day and continue living, even through troubled times.
I firmly believe this yearning is the wish that our soul has for complete acceptance, complete love, and absolute grace. Our soul desires fullness! We seek this in the oddest places: work, family, mass media/entertainment, self-promotion/recognition, friends, illicit relationships, money, food. We long desperately for someone or something to wholly love us, to embrace us as we are, and to extend grace for all our shortcomings, embracing us as individuals. We yearn for something that seems just out of our reach, and yet we regularly reach for it, even if subconsciously.
Sometimes we do things that do not make sense at the time but later make perfect sense. You wonder why you took so long getting ready for vespers, even though you are not dating, or why you even bothered to drag yourself out of bed to go teach class when your students are disengaged. I believe it is because subconsciously you are seeking affirmation, acceptance, grace, and love.
This drive for completeness can lead us astray, taking us places we never should have gone. We can end up in manipulative or broken relationships, imbalanced work/home lives, eating disorders, addictions, or spiritual estrangement. Our hearts are shredded over and over again, and we often willfully remain ignorant as to why. No matter what we do, we feel so empty. We strive for things that seem unattainable.
No matter what I do, I cannot find complete happiness on this earth. Yes, I can enjoy life to its fullest with every blessed moment I have been given. I adore my family and appreciate my work. I thrive as I learn and grow, but I always feel that something is missing. In my spiritual journey I have waxed and waned in my proximity to that which fills my soul-cup. In fact, recently my father reminded me of it, and I have once more orbited closer. I cherish it anew with all my heart, soul, and mind.
I have been raised a Christian; all my life I have known of God, Jesus, and all the founding principles of my religion. Most of the time, I felt happy and on fire for what I believed in, continually wanting to spread the happiness that I felt, and yet…I knew something was not quite right. I understood and accepted all the things that I had been taught: that God created this earth, that Adam and Eve sinned, that Jesus died and was raised for our sins, and that in the end all those saved will go to heaven and live eternally with Christ in joyous adoration with no more pain and death. However, there is more to it than just that. There is the fact that Christ offers unfailing love, divine grace, and eternal acceptance: a complete relationship. I knew of this, but so often we know things in our minds that we once knew with our hearts.
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me” (Proverbs 8:17, NIV). When was the last time I eagerly looked forward to time spent with God? Do I talk about Him and what He’s done for me, where He’s taken me, what He’s taught me, as eagerly as I talk about the movies, books, or people I populate my life with? Do I “arm” myself for loving and living with my family by first ensuring that my relationship with God is vibrant, real, and regular?
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). Only the Creator of my inmost part, the Maker of my soul, knows my needs, my desires, my dreams in a fashion and way that is wholly good. When I put my relationship with Him first, when I regularly center my comings and goings on Him, with Him, then I taste heaven on Earth. That corner of my soul that felt bereft even when in the arms of loved ones is now filled.
My mother once told me that there is a God-sized hole in every person’s heart and people will do strange and sometimes dangerous things to fill that hole if they have decided against a relationship with God. Yet that is like the garden refusing the water (Isaiah 58:11) that the gardener brings. The psalmist declares of God in Psalm 107:9, “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (NKJV).
Are you weary in your soul? Do you feel that your relationships are thin, lacking, unfulfilling? Have you begun to drift in your spirit from one source of entertainment to the next, nearly afraid to be in silence with your own thoughts? Return to your relationship with your Father; make it your priority. “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25, RSV). Taking time to “hang out” with a Being who says that seems like a good use of time and energy to me. Only He can replenish you and satisfy the longing within.
Megan M. Elemendorf Hopson is vice principal of education at Taiwan Adventist International School.