We were about to leave the hospital room. We had come to visit Butch. He was a homeless man; an alcoholic. His liver and his body were falling apart. We had struck up a friendship years ago. He was intrigued by us. He would tell shop owners and others along Elm Street about this couple "who really loved the Lord" and did great things in the city. He would tell them that they just had to meet us. Well, with such glowing reports on our behalf, the least we could do was visit him in the hospital! During our visit, we talked about Elm Street and our dogs (he especially loved Java our Rottweiler). He put on a brave "Devil may care" attitude and tried to make us laugh. (And was pretty successful at it!) As we left I took hold of his shoulders and I said, "Butch, you know what I see in you? I see someone who can recover from alcoholism. I see you in our coffee shop talking to young men about life and giving them wise advice. I see you as mentor and counselor to many who need the knowledge & wisdom you have gathered through the years. I see a whole new life for you." Well, that did it. He started to cry. It wasn't a messy sob but tears rolling down his cheeks onto his yellow-white beard. Butch never did become the man I envisioned. He died within the year. But one thing I know: he longed for the vision more than I did.
What do you want? What do you dream about having or attaining? Do you think you will realize your dreams? Do you long for something you can't quite describe? Is there something in your heart that is unsettled but you're not exactly sure why? Butch wanted sobriety and sanity but it was too much to hope for after all the times he had disappointed himself.
I want to use this blog to dialogue with you about our longings. Strange, eh? But I do believe that we are a lot like Butch. We have longings and dreams but we settle for something far less because we don't dare hope to have these desires satisfied. We settle for money, material goods, fame or sex or any number of substitutes. There is a famous quotation that is attributed to Blaise Pascal: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” However, there is some argument about the true author of that quote, it seems that Pascal's original quote is much more profound and nuanced: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?
This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those things that are, though none can help since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”
There was once in man a true happiness. It is true. There was a time when Adam & Eve walked with God on a daily basis. There was nothing to separate them from this love affair. There was true happiness. But selfishness, sin,and willful autonomy ended this relationship and we are left with a longing that we don't know how to fill. Even Christians who claim to have a restored relationship with God have difficulty finding their longing fulfilled. That is why we need to dialogue about this.
Let me end with a quote from C.S. Lewis.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
In the coming months, I want to explore with you what it would be like to go on that holiday at sea.
Please add your comments. A dialogue would be great.