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Hunger, Longing, and the Age to Come

If I am hungry, somewhere there must be bread.

That pang in our stomach, the ache that unsettles us and makes us irritable--and eventually weak--is evidence of a reality beyond ourselves. The stomach is made for food, and even in the absence of food we know its reality. Somewhere, there is food.

Our physical being urges us toward discovery. Not just any discovery, because only food will do. We are made for it, and it for us. A new-born child without a desire for mother’s milk will languish and die. Our loss of appetite is a symptom of a larger illness. In our old age, when our body despairs of life itself, we chose not to eat. Hunger is a sign of life and health.

C.S. Lewis went beyond the example of hunger. “A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” In another setting he described a “secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.”

In Surprised by Joy, Lewis gave one name to all these ideas. He called this desire "longing." I’ve learned to recognize it in every sunset, every landscape; in each friendship and each moment of joy shared with another; each thought of a happiness beyond mere circumstance: all of these are longings that point to the place of all fulfillment. That place is a person, a personal, loving, creator who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Every yearning unfulfilled and each realized joy has one source. I learned this from Dr. Lewis, my first mentor. He was taught by a true father of the Church, St. Augustine, who said simply, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

In the coming week you can begin to hear a song not yet fully sung. You can see a painting that is only a sketch. Every thankfulness on earth can become an invitation to taste of the powers of the age to come. This week, I wish you longing.

Reader Comments (6)

Ray, I love where you’ve taken this and the sharing of your first mentor with us, as always, thank you!

My response will be too short but hopefully those who read will take it somewhere they long to be, in Truth.

I don't quite, as does Mr. Lewis, see my stretching to reach (longing) toward what I do not know as "another world".

I see the Earth more like a womb where I sense there is more outside with much more room to grow than in here. That instinctual sense, though I have not yet the sight for certainty, gives me reason and hope to place my exhaustive struggle to get myself together for the future. I have to develop in this protected space, fed through a cord attached to my mind and heart, until my spiritual lungs are prepared to breathe the air of God's kingdom.

My buds have almost developed to taste the powers of the age to come with my elder brother Jesus as my last mentor.

September 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

Hi Herm: thanks for the short post--and the extended metaphor. For me (as I wrote this) the key factor was not our beliefs regarding destinations, but to be able to recognize the reality behind the longing. And I especially like your characterization of Jesus as the last mentor. Peace!

September 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

I like this post. It speaks to my own experience. It is my opinion that the proof of God can be found in the searching of every person from every nation for a god-explination. Even atheism is proof of God, for if God did not exist there would not be such a compelling desire to prove it. The simple fact that humans even think the concept of 'god' and speculate whether there is 'more out there' speaks to an aspect of human nature that necesitates divinity. God exists because we cannot live without a god. It is as Lewis said "I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy." The Bible is clear that God has made his existance self-evident and I believe that part of his self-evidence is our instinct as humans to comment on a higher power. If only people would see that what they are searching for is the Son of God...

September 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

Thanks, Bonnie. Like you, my heart aches with your last sentence, "If only people would see that what they are searching for is the Son of God..." Blessings to you!

September 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

Been thinking a lot recently about the God-shaped vacuum, so I enjoyed this post which continues those thoughts. Thank you! Looking forward to reading more in the days to come.

September 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie Wald

Annie: Somehow a spam filter blocked your comment for a while--I'm truly sorry. Thanks for dropping by, and I'll be faster to respond next time.

September 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterRay Hollenbach

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