As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
Have you ever been really, really thirsty? Your tongue feels like sandpaper sticking to the roof of a burning mouth. The only thing you can think about is getting water. If you’ve ever been really thirsty then you understand the imagery of today’s scripture. Like a deer in the blazing Judean wilderness thirsts for water so the psalmist says that he longs for God.
Do you long for God like that? I don’t think that we often talk in the language of longing and desire for God. But the great saints often tell of their longing for God and God’s longing for them. There is a God-shaped longing in all of us wanting to be filled.
Ronald Rolheiser speaks of this longing in his book appropriately titled, Holy Longing:
“We do not wake up in this world calm and serene, having the luxury of choosing to act or not act. We wake up crying, on fire with desire, with madness. What we do with that madness is our spirituality…All of us have a holy longing. It is desire. We are born with a divine spark inside us longing for everything – longing for God. That’s the basis of spirituality. Long before we do anything explicitly religious, spirituality is what we do with the fire that burns within us.”
What are you doing with that longing, with that fire burning within you? Sadly, our culture frantically tries to satisfy longing with possessions, career, sexual adventures, and conspicuous consumption. Still others try to quench it with alcohol, drugs, binge-eating, and video game addiction. It is interesting that renowned psychiatrist Karl Jung observed that the alcoholic’s thirst is “the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness…the union with God.” (Karl Jung, Letters of Karl Jung) All of us have thirst that only God and oneness with Him can fully satisfy. Saint Augustine eloquently paints this in his book, Confessions, about his life of misdirected longing turned, by grace, to longing for God.
C. S. Lewis was fond of the language of longing, desire, and passion, sometimes drawing on 16th century Anglican priest and poet Thomas Traherne’s book, Centuries of Meditations. In this book, described by Lewis as “almost the most beautiful book in English”, Traherne wrote:
- “The soul is inclined to possess all. Its longings cannot be satisfied by anything short of infinite perfection. It must possess God or be dissatisfied.”
- “It is of the nobility of man that he is insatiable. For he hath a benefactor so prone to give, that He delighteth in us for asking.”
- “You must want like a God that you may be satisfied like God. Were you not made in His image?”
We have a very serious problem in our culture by wanting too little. Wanting too small. God created us to want well, and to want for Him. God so loves us that He Himself longs to share His very life with us. The Christian life is a lot more than trying to be a good moral people and wanting to avoid sin. God created us and calls to desire, to long for nothing less than God! God longs that “you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). So, want big! Pray big! Long big!
“Oh, dear Loving Father, forgive us our puny wants and tiny longings! You made us for more! Teach us to long for you!”
A fellow traveler,