A Yearning Too Deep for Words

A Yearning Too Deep for Words

by Amos Smith, author of Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life

I do not look for God because I think it is what I am supposed to do; I do it because I need to, because of a longing that is not of my own creation.

-John of the Cross

Most of us are looking for a home. We’re displaced people. The average American moves every five years, deals with an increasingly frantic pace of life, and has fractures, if not in the immediate family, then in the extended family. Many of us have lost our link to the past. The traditions that spoke to our ancestors no longer speak to us with the same conviction.

We find ourselves on a turbulent ocean called the Twenty-first Century, where through the internet, satellite television, air travel, and cell phones the world is at our doorstep. Vast horizons are open to us as never before. It is an incredible, fascinating time. It is also a bewildering and anxiety-ridden time. 

Now, more than ever, we need a home—not just a physical home, but a spiritual one.

A recent television show depicted people trying to live like pioneers. One of the experimental pioneers said, “There are twelve-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. In these groups people start group sharing with, ‘Hello my name is John and I’m an alcoholic’.” He continued, “I often feel we need support groups, not only for the chemically dependent, but for all of us living in the Twenty-first Century. In such a group I would start by saying, ‘Hello my name is John and I live in the Twenty-first Century’…” These are overwhelming times.

When people had job security, came from “stable homes,” and lived in the same place their whole lives, spiritual homesickness was less acute. Now, when everything seems tenuous, we need a spiritual anchor.

Whether we act on it or simply dream of it, all of us instinctually return to our origins—to our roots. It may be to the desert to discover ourselves in its stillness (Psalm 46:10). It may be a return to Ireland to find our relatives and family name. It may be a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France, where seekers report healings and direct communication with God.

We yearn to take the journey of Abraham and Sarah—the journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. This is particularly true in America. The Spanish conquistadors, the Puritans, the pioneers and colonizers all searched for an earthly paradise. And the migration of seekers continues—flocking to Bali or India to find their guru, to California to find the sun and its gardens of Eden, or to that church with the new young minister who promises heaven.

Most of us are searching for a Promised Land where we can lie down in green pastures, be led to still waters, and restore our souls (Psalm 23:2-3a). We yearn for the tumultuous waters to still. We long to catch our breath and connect with something far deeper than our disconnected Twenty-first Century selves. We thirst for a refuge that transcends our fragmented, internet-surfing minds. We thirst for a spiritual home that is as spacious as the starlit desert sky, yet as intimate as our spouse’s body who occupies our bed.

We thirst for something at the edge of our tongues, for a spaciousness that creates space where there is no space, for light-hearted presence of mind that brings humor into the humorless situation, for something at the tips of our tongues that echoes the invisible freedom of monarch butterfly wings. 

Previous article A Holy Reunion: Meeting the Virgin Mary