Lessons on Longings

Martina McBride sang a country song called “Anyway” and the first stanza says:

You can spend your whole life building

Something from nothin’

One storm can come and blow it all away

Build it anyway.

Even if you don’t like country music, the song is worth listening to completely. It speaks deeply of courage and faith, the tragic and longings.

Longings come to us as real as breath.

If we are breathing, we cannot escape them. We can, however, spend our lives running from them—with good reasons—because they move us to attempt to build something that we cannot finish and will not last. In spite of good reasons, the heart still calls us to face them and feel them and create out of them. Blaise Pascal wrote in Pensees, “The heart has reasons which reason knows nothing of …. We know the truth not only by reason, but by the heart.” Longings are definitely a matter of the heart.

Longings reveal how far away we live from that which we most hope could be fully realized.

While longings disclose how far from Home we truly are, they move us to create that which matters to us despite knowing that our lives will never be perfect or complete.

According to Dr. Dan Allender, and I paraphrase, we long for a home we never have to struggle in or leave. We long for a peace that does not become disrupted. We long for a justice that protects us from all harm. And we long for a safety that is not up to us, in a world that is never, ever, ever going to be what we imagine. Therein lies our conflict. Reason would say, “Then why do it? Why walk into such tragedy?” And the heart says, “I am powerless to stop it; therefore, I must move towards it.”

Longings call us into the struggle to make life better than it will ever become.

If we face them, they move us to fully participate in the beautiful failure of living. In spite of their “unreasonableness,” longings teach us how to live fully in a place of impermanence and incompletion, in spite of the tragedy that is in conflict with our capacity to imagine.

In order for our longings to lead us to living well, this sense of tragedy or failure must be held in tension with the belief that God is present and faithful amidst the tragic. Life is tragic; God is faithful. Longings call us into the struggle between the reality of life and the truth of how we are created.

In spite of the tragedy, we can still experience what longings call us towards.

Yes, they call us to pain. And they also call us to the inspired courage to “build it anyway.” Our pain increases with longing, because we see more fully the distance between what our hearts can envision and the reality of what often occurs. This gap is the reason longings call us to feel all of our feelings, as all of our feelings will be needed as we hope, desire, reach, build, and not completely succeed.

Longings call us to a loneliness that does not end, a sadness that will not stop, a hurt that cannot be healed, and a neediness that brings us closer to God and others than we would have ever been otherwise.

Very courageous people build in a world that will be torn down. In spite of the pain, the longing heart also has the gratitude of a direction to follow, a mission with a purpose, a faith to walk, and a promise to keep. People open to the depth of longings live as they are created to live in a place that is not completely home, and not peaceful, just, or safe. But they do it anyway.

As the song “Anyway” ends, in spite of the tragic, “I sing/I dream/I love/Anyway.” Longings call us to the truths of the God who created us as greater than the reality we live in. The heart, indeed, “has reasons which reason knows nothing of.”