In the late 80’s many of you remember Bono of U2 singing with passion, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” He called it, “a gospel song for the restless spirit.” Back then I was in my late 40’s, going through a significant spiritual shift in my soul life. It was both renewing and unsettling. I didn’t realize that at the time, but intuitively I was breaking out of my “evangelical-charismatic box” so as to incorporate the “contemplative” dimension into my journey with Jesus. Dr. James Houston, in his book “Heart’s Desire” expressed in one sentence what I was struggling to understand. “The unsatisfied longing for God is what drives human being above all else.”
He quoted Augustine: “Longing is the heart’s treasury. The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing. What you desire ardently, as yet you do not see…. God extends the longing; through longing he extends the soul, by extending it he makes room in it….So….let us long because we are to be filled…that is our life, to be exercised by longing.” The Psalmist expressed his longing for God when he prayed, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1-2).
Men, it took me a long time to acknowledge the fire of desire and longing in my soul. Christopher West in a book entitled “Fill These Hearts” writes, “Despite all the widespread impressions to the contrary, we must impress the truth upon our souls and allow it to settle in our bones: Christianity is the religion of desire….” I am more convinced then ever that it is not will power, right thinking, or correct behavior that will capture the hearts of men. It’s acknowledging, embracing, tasting, and living out of our desire for God. After all, God put that desire there, so that we might long for fellowship with him.
Our desires, of course, can be disordered. But beyond the distortion is a true passion for God. We need men with fire, not men who smolder. A strong, objective framework built on scripture, along with good orthodox teaching handed down over the years will guide and lead us. But we have an unattended “a fire in our belly” that needs our attention. G. K. Chesterton observed: “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” Remember John said Jesus would baptize, “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11). Men, what will you do about your fire?
Over the years I have come into a “spacious place” (Ps 18:18) regarding to my own longing and desire for God. I am more willing to “taste” this longing, without being fearful of the energy and mystery of this movement in my soul. I am still learning to integrate this spiritual energy with the sexual energy I know resides within my soul. I now know that I will never be filled, but that the longing for God will continue to be a driving force in my life. It brings freedom and spiritual energy for the journey.
So men, my advice is to ease up on your intellectual and habitual controls, while allowing yourself to “taste” your inner longing for God. Trust that your deepest longings are from Him. Allow yourself to pray as the Psalmist, “All my longings lie open before you, Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pound for you” (Ps. 38:9-10).