A year ago at this time I had never heard of Casey Tygrett. Now he is one of my new favorite authors. His words in his newest book, Becoming Curious, came at just the right time for me. If you are surrounded by people who don’t let questions linger in the air too long before they feel compelled to answer them, Casey’s words will be an anthem of hope for you, too. Grateful to introduce you to him here today.
I remember sitting in a night class, shoulders rounded, eyes heavy, crafting schemes to stay awake for the remainder of the time. The most nauseating method I had was to make a pot of coffee in the morning and let it sit all day, then pour equal parts cold coffee and Mountain Dew into a travel mug and hope for the best.
It was a long semester.
As I sat in that particular class, a handout landed on my desk. The first line caught and held me.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. – The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
In front of me, in my caffeinated haze, I saw a new question emerging. The question would move from the simulated adulthood of my college years to the grittier realities of family and work today.
What I recognize now is this: A job – your profit-making, mortgage-paying work – is good and necessary. You need to eat. You need to pay the bills. You need to wear clothes. Those are sorted and set aside.
But there is something else.
What I heard then – and what I hear now – in the first line to Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s epic poem was a deeper vein of gold running below the surface, below the obvious. To that point my whole life and faith had been wrapped up in definite answers and facts.
God is holy. You are not. So fix it.
In this line of thinking, aches and longings were actually part of the problem and needed to be solved rather than hopes and possibilities in need of exploration.
Here was a Bible college professor placing an idea in our minds that was quick and clean like lightning and just as explosive. What if, in the context of life and faith there was a space – a light and tidy space – to explore the aches and longings within us?
The ache of that dating relationship that isn’t what we had hoped or prayed for but we stay in it because we truly love that person.
The ache of that job, the drain and the strain of it, and the paradoxical joy that comes when the job allows us to live out our passion.
The ache of moving from one spiritual tradition or set of beliefs and understandings about God to another and the hard conversations with those who remain in the country we are leaving behind.
The ache of why she left and now I am raising a family on my own.
The aches of watching injustices accumulate like Michigan snow.
The longing to see beauty instead of only bland usefulness.
The longing to know something good that transcends the clock and moves into time that’s outside of time.
The longing not to simply work, but to create and bring beauty into the world with intensity and courage that surprises everyone – including ourselves.
The longing to let simple things like washing dishes, paying bills, and attending meetings become moments of wonder and miracle.
The ache and longing of being a caregiver to an ailing parent or partner, wanting what is best for that person in whatever shape and form they may require.
What do you ache for today?
What are you willing to do in order to find it?
What might God be welcoming you to explore, question, analyze, and re-envision in order to pour out those deep pings of your spirit in front of Him and onto your world?
Class ended and I took up my things: the mug with the half-ingested caffeine syrup and the poem that shifted my plane of vision.
Some years later, I look up from my desk. I see the poem tacked up on my bulletin board in an office where I hear from people whose expectations have been disappointed, teenagers who want to know that they’re valued and beautiful because they’ve heard a different story all of their lives, and marriages where what was attraction and mystery has faded to common space and quiet rejection.
So I ask the question: what do you ache for?
What if faith, God, and prayer are all about exploring those things?
What if the crisis in which we live is less about capturing the right answer and pacifying our image of God and more about learning to ask the questions that are already deep within?
We talk and I sip my tea. A new story starts to unfold.
Casey Tygrett is a pastor, writer and spiritual director living in Rockford, Illinois. His first book, Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions is available now.
Learn more about Casey here on his website and find him on Twitter @cktygrett, where he will continue to say things like this: “Maybe your rich, honest, holy questions are more important than even your unshakable certainties.”