August 7, 2014
Several years ago at UT’s annual fall retreat for Cru, I facilitated a women’s time for about 60 college students. I have no recollection of what was shared or said, but I do remember a conversation I had with three of the girls afterwards. “Millie” shared with me that she just wanted God to take away her feelings for someone. She felt that if she surrendered and asked God that he should remove all feelings of longing. Then she could happily get on with life. Sounds right, huh? Wrong. Millie felt ashamed of her desire. She felt that someone who had it more together wouldn’t want something so “un-Godly” as a relationship. She should want to go to Africa and share Jesus more than she should want a relationship, right? I will never forget the look on her face as we talked about what it would look like to walk in her longing and not try and get rid of it like a bad haircut from the 7th grade. Her face lit up as she realized that there was another way. A way in which she could be fully surrendered to her Father and yet have desire and longing.
The struggle is real. 1) The struggle to want to demand our longing be met when we want it, or 2) the opposite – to kill desire. That’s what a good Buddhist would do. If you have no desire then you have no suffering (read Larry Crabb – Shattered Dreams).
We are invited to live in the tension of our longings. The waiting will surface every bit of entitlement, bad coping mechanism and neediness. The tension of living in longing will surface demand – demands of other people and demands of God to meet what we think our greatest needs are and to answer in the timing that we think best. Living in the tension will highlight our relational sin and how our interactions with others can be insincere and selfish in an effort to get a need met.
Longings in friends lives right now include longing to be free of cancer, longing to have children, longing to have a heart healed from a broken relationship, longing to find community, longing for husband to be free of addiction, longing for a life to have weight and meaning and a longing to be known and loved.
I have no magical answers other than to keep leaning in to your longing with others who have empathy and the ability to be WITH you in your vulnerable place.
Here are a few tips for those of you who struggle a little with knowing how to be WITH someone:
- Listen without feeling the need to give advice. Is your desire to give advice due to your own insecurity of feeling like you don’t have anything to offer your hurting friend? Pay attention to your relational motivation.
- If you don’t understand your friend’s longing then that’s ok. A healthy friend won’t demand you understand, but appreciate your effort in asking questions and just sitting in silence with them.
- Don’t underestimate the power of your presence and kindness in asking questions.
- Basically all of these points sound the same. 🙂
Beth Moore recently said something that has stuck with me. She said, “If there’s a breakdown in unbelief, it’s not His issue, it’s yours.” It may sound harsh, but I’ve loved it because it reminds me to think about things that are true – He loves us. He is for us. He is WITH. So the next time you are tempted to kill desire or to demand it be answered, just give me or a trusted friend a call. We can walk through it together.