If you’re a human, you’re probably familiar with this feeling. Whether it be directed at a chocolate bar, a yet-to-be-released TV episode, movie, or book, a certain time of the year, a vacation, a person, a time from your past, or something else, at some point in life we’ve all experienced longing.
I never really took much time to think about longing before. Then the topic came to mind, and my initial thought was that sometimes longing can be a good thing, but at other times it’s bad. Longing for the release of the Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters movie may be good because it enhances appreciation when the movie is finally released; longing for a carton of ice cream may be bad because consuming said carton of ice cream would not be healthy.
Then, I thought deeper and came to this conclusion: Longing can always be a good thing.
This only works if we realize that we’re longing for something. If we do, that realization can help us understand ourselves better. We only long for something because something is missing from our lives. I don’t long to own Seasons 1 and 2 of the BBC Robin Hood series because I own them (I do not); I long to because of the stories in them about a handful of people who, fictional as they may be, faced tremendous odds and stood up for what was right against tyranny, gluttony, greed, lechery, and every other kind of injustice, and because I find a lack of such people in my life in a world I see plagued with like injustices. I don’t long for rain because I’m wet (I’m not); I long for rain because I associate it with calmness, healing, peace, rest, reflection, safety, and home, all things I so often find lacking in my busy, work-filled, school-driven, sleep-deprived life.
But these examples are not what drove me to this realization. The specific longing that led me to reflection was nostalgia for a specific time, place, and group of people. When I listened to Switchfoot’s song “Souvenirs”, this is the place my mind went: My first youth group.
The time is past, the place irreversibly changed, the people scattered and our lives severed from each others, which strongly tinged this longing with mourning.
Then I realized: the reason I long for that time is because of what I, in my inner self, was like then. I was entirely sold out for God. I filled my time with pursuing Him, not with gorging myself on meaningless stories. I did my homework because it would honor Him, not because it was a stepping stone to get to where I wanted to be. I was much more taciturn, but I was trying harder to share the truth of God with my classmates. Now, I’ve settled for complacency, and that terrifies me.
So I’m confessing this to you, my readers. Today marks the beginning of a month-long fast from consuming stories, so that I can focus back on God. Today marks me turning off the noise so I can listen to the Spirit’s guidance and let Him light the revolutionary fire in my heart again. Today marks me facing my longing and its cause, learning from my emotions instead of letting them rule me.
Hopefully, instead of “Souvenirs,” the theme song for this next step in my life will sound more like “Afterlife.”