On Longing and Abiding
[This post was featured over at The Joyful Life Magazine on May 15, 2020.]
A year ago, my husband and I looked at each other over our Dunkin Donuts drive-thru breakfast. Our car was loaded with three boys, three pairs of cleats, three bags of gear, water bottles for all, and camp chairs for my husband and me to collapse in after the rushing. As much as we love soccer, as the season charges ahead, each progressive weekend brings more fast food and less calm at home. With the backdrop of the familiar perfume of cleats and the quiet of sleepy boys eating bagel sandwiches, we wondered, what would it be like to just stop?
I longed to be home.
Now, in the middle of a pandemic, in an era of new words and equipment, we haven’t needed before, that longing is so different. Didn’t my husband and I get what we wished for? Sort of? But we’re still unsettled.
At first, I think it’s about the monotony.
Six weeks into quarantine, we’ve adopted a quiet hum of new rhythms, our days filled with the unchanging daily categories. But I’m pacing much of the time, feeling clipped. Though much begs to be done, my heart bucks each call from my kitchen or the laundry room. I’ve never pretended to enjoy cooking and cleaning, but I’ve always done those in between the things that energize me. In quarantine, those things wait, on hold.
I’m longing for more.
Then I feel guilty because the monotony is a blessing.
It’s a gift that we’re healthy. It’s a gift that we’re together. I feel guilt about being detached from where this pandemic is hitting hardest. In Ohio, we were at the front end of closings, before many cases had arrived, resulting in a flatter curve than other states. This brings a very different picture of weathering the pandemic.
As I pour coffee each morning, my anticipated day stretches out before me, the same as yesterday: overseeing schooling for three boys (hip-to-hip with my third grader), sitting at my desk to string sentences together, and witnessing spring pressing on in my backyard. When set beside the headlines, this reality feels unfair, like I’ve cheated in some way. How can spring be here and my boys are reading books outside while people are dying? My husband and I pray. The ache is real. My heart is heavy because the fabric and texture of my life don’t seem to touch the seams of what’s fraying elsewhere.
I’m longing for much.
The unfolding of spring during a pandemic, as He commands the leaves and the flowers to push through winter, to wake up through dirt, offer declarations of His steadfastness alongside the longings. I need this evidence of glory in this time of waiting. I need reminders of His purposes and His beauty as I flit from longing to be home, to the longing to leave, to the longing for healing, to a longing that will emerge from this time not looking like the old “normal,” but something else. Like unbalanced scales that can’t find rest, each of my unsettled attempts to measure what’s missing points to one shared truth: Every longing is rooted in the unmet, unfulfilled recognition of more.
It’s not really that I longed to be home.
It’s not really that I don’t want to clean my house.
It’s not feeling helpless in the throes of so much need.
It’s that I know, deep inside, the promise of more that awaits.
I’m longing for days that don’t bring pain or chaos or mess or dirt.
I’m longing for days when we won’t fear or cry or pace.
I’m longing for days of connection and shared meaning.
C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Yes, we were made for another world. I’m thankful for the indescribable beauty of a sunset or my son’s snuggles or singing in unison at church—those beauties that warm my heart and burn my lungs and make me weep with joy and gratitude, yet they offer but a shred of what waits beyond this world. I know that what we have here are glimpses of glory moments in dust—shards and scraps of miracle in a fallen, imperfect world. Still, His majesty shines. I taste it here and long for more there.
I never knew it would be possible to be home for six weeks and still be homesick. In his book “Adorning the Dark,” Andrew Peterson wrote, “I was born homesick. Maybe we all were,” and I understand that now. The most settled I feel, the most at peace—and thus, the least homesick, is when I’m trying to get as close to God as I can. When I make myself small and just sit with Him.
Today, my coffee mug spoke to that deep longing, with its fired and glazed reminder to “abide” hand-stamped on its side. I remember these words from Jesus, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). I’ve seen other translations use “remain,” and “dwell,” and I think they’re all beautifully relevant.
Before these weeks at home, I didn’t truly understand abiding. Maybe I was abiding then, to the best of my ability. But now, after so many weeks focused on remaining and dwelling, I see that it’s a decision. A priority. A commitment. To abide requires a mindset where competition is absent and temptation to leave is removed.
Read the rest over at The Joyful Life Magazine.