Last week I bit into an apple that tasted precisely like one bottle of men’s cologne. Well that’s curious. I reasoned it cannot be possible that this fruit from God’s green earth tasted like it had actually been fed Drakkar Noir from the moment it first broke seed as if the farmer was some kind of deranged Abercrombie & Fitch model with something to prove. I had to take a second bite to be sure.
When the second bite confirmed it, I turned slow-motion style to the table where the kids sat with homework and a plate of sliced apples and, just before I could launch myself toward them and remove all the poison from their reach, my daughter looked up at me mid-chew: “Mommy, this apple tastes like perfume.”
In the end, we were all okay but isn’t it true that sometimes what should be simply isn’t? It’s hard to allow yourself to long for something because what if it only ends in disappointment? What if you admit your deepest longing and then you get an apple that tastes like perfume?
I’m on a journey – and I bet you are too – of learning what it really means to live with Jesus in the midst of the desire and disappointment of everyday life. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, I’m discovering one key element to walking with him is all wrapped up in admitting what I most long for.
When my daily rhythm feels more like a drumbeat than a heartbeat, it’s time for me to pay attention to three simple realities:
1. It’s time to admit my longings.
When I feel more like a robot with a to-do list in my hand rather than an artist with wonder in my eyes, I stop, close my eyes, open one hand in my lap and put the other on my heart and ask myself, what am I longing for in this moment?
If you do this, you might be surprised what you discover but don’t be surprised by the tears. Those tiny messengers are your kind companions, sent from the deepest part of who you are to remind you of what makes you come alive.
Listen to them and wake up to your heartbeat.
Jesus himself routinely asked people questions that helped them to get in touch with their desires and name it in his presence. He often brought focus and clarity to his interactions with those who were spiritually hungry by asking them, What do you want? What do you want me to do for you? Such questions had the power to elicit deeply honest reflection in the person to whom they were addressed, and opened the way for Christ to lead them into deeper levels of spiritual truth and healing.
– Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
Desire is a gift when we open it in the presence of God. Longing is key to my spiritual formation.
The reason why it’s terrifying to admit our deepest longing, the reason why I seldom allow myself to do it, is because too often it seems longing leads to disappointment in the form of a glaring life-limitation I have little control to change.
2. It’s time to embrace my limits.
We hear all the time about the importance of having boundaries. In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown wisely says this:
If you don’t set boundaries there won’t be any. Or even worse, there will be boundaries, but they’ll be set by default – or by another person – instead of by design.
I appreciate people who can say no with confidence, who establish healthy boundaries in their lives.
But my perspective changes when it comes to the boundaries I don’t choose that come in the form of lack of time, lack of energy, lack of money or influence or control. I don’t call those boundaries, I call those problems.
And I tend to push against those limitations and forget these are the very places where Jesus wants to meet with me.
Perhaps these limits are actually gifts, pointing me forward rather than holding me back. For example, if I’m not good at that particular skill or don’t have time for this particular event, then it forces me to pay attention to what I am good at and what I do have time for. When I’m willing to see my limits as a gift rather than a liability, I begin to live my real life instead of wishing for the life I want instead.
3. It’s time to pay attention when they intersect.
When I avoid confessing my longings and embracing my limits, I live in the lifeless middle where I have no need for redemption. Sometimes it feels easier this way. When I keep those two roads running parallel in my heart, I miss out on the opportunity to meet Jesus at the intersection.
But when I embrace them both, I am able to experience life with Christ in deeply personal ways. I become more aware of myself and others, feel more alive to Christ’s life in me, and open up to his presence with me.
I imagine Jesus standing at the crossroad of my longing and my limits. And while it’s true he doesn’t always satisfy my longing in ways I expect, he does always offer to be enough where before there wasn’t enough. At the intersection of longing and limitation is where the miracle happens, both the water from wine kind and the joy in the midst of suffering kind.
I’m learning a big part of living a redeemed life now, in this moment, is to pay attention to those moments where my longing and my limits intersect, to stand there with my friend Jesus, and together wait for the seed to grow.
The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows – how? he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.
May we walk in this newness of life in our ordinary moments. May we wake up to our longings and hold them out to you. May we confess our limitations trusting you with outcomes. May we keep company with you as we wait for seeds to grow.
If you were at the Beautiful Life conference last weekend, you’ll recognize a lot of these words as I shared these thoughts with the women who came. At the end, I shared a prayer I wrote, some of those lines included here at the end. If you would like the complete prayer to print out, you can download A Prayer as We Wait for Seeds to Grow here.
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